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Housing Disrepair: A Family Home Suffering With Black Mould

by Jane Willacey

We were instructed in November 2020 by Mr and Mrs Z from South London who had been experiencing substantial and ongoing disrepair since they moved into their leasehold property in the spring of 2012. . Having spent nearly eight years trying and failing to get the freeholder to repair exterior damage to the property which was causing internal disrepair they contacted us and we took on their case under a ‘No Win No Fee’ agreement.

Soon after moving into their ground floor flat our clients became aware of excess humidity in the bathroom which was causing condensation to run down the walls resulting in puddles on the floor. Our clients reported this to the freeholder who sent one of their contractors to inspect. Our clients were informed by the contractor that this is only condensation and there is nothing that can be done.

In the early winter of the same year our clients noticed that black mould was beginning to form on the walls of the bathroom. Our clients reported this again to the freeholder who informed our clients that this would be the clients responsibility. The freeholder refused to take any action to inspect the property.

By the middle of 2013 the disrepair was getting much worse. The excess moisture was affecting the metal fixtures of the bathroom which began to rust and the exterior wall of the bathroom was wet to the touch after rainfall, the black mould was also spreading and becoming thicker than it had been the previous year. Furthermore, the mould and damp started to appear in all of the other rooms of the property causing extensive damage to carpets, laminate flooring, walls and soft furnishings.  Again, this was reported to the freeholder and an inspection took place, this time it was identified that part of the problem was likely to be that the soil outside the property was too high and situated far above the damp proof course causing excess moisture inside. However, despite the initial investigation the freeholder made no attempt to rectify the issue.

Towards the end of 2013, our clients noticed water leaking from the light fixture in their master bedroom. This was reported to the freeholder and the leak was stopped and ceiling painted. However, mildew started to grow on the ceiling of the master bedroom suggesting that the damage caused by the leak had not been properly rectified and instead just cosmetically covered up.

In the spring of 2014, our clients sent the freeholder a letter setting out all the complaints and repair requests that they had previously made to them over the two years of living at the property. The freeholder responded to this letter by telling our clients to use a better quality of paint and to paint over the areas where the black mould is showing through.

The disrepair carried on for a further six years with conditions gradually getting worse each year. Our clients were fighting a losing battle with the freeholder and as well as living in an unsafe environment they were spending hundreds each year having to replace flooring and soft furnishings that become saturated with damp and mould, this was having a detrimental effect on both our clients physical and mental health.

The freeholder had made absolutely no attempt to repair the damage and/or adequately investigate the root cause of the disrepair over the 8 years the clients had lived at the property, therefore we gathered all evidence of correspondence between our clients and the freeholder plus copies of the original lease and instructed a reputable surveyor to assess the property who reported that the level of disrepair was indeed substantial.

We also instructed a structural engineer who cited negligent building construction including but not limited to cold bridges, cracks and access holes in the exterior walls, soil above the damp proof course and ineffectual guttering and wastewater management all of which contributed to the very high levels of humidity, condensation and black mould. The experts concluded that the extent of the black mould and absence of proper ventilation was an urgent health hazard.

We sent a detailed letter of claim to the freeholder setting out that they were in breach of clauses of the lease and/or breach of their statutory and common law duties. The Freeholder denied liability stating that they were only responsible for the exterior of the property and not responsible for the clients’ interior disrepair which may have been true had the interior disrepair not been caused by exterior negligence.

The freeholder continued to deny liability even after appointing their own expert surveyor to assess the property, their surveyors report agreed on all counts with our experts report therefore we issued court proceedings. The freeholder at this point accepted that they need to take this seriously and entered negotiations with us. After numerous below par offers from the freeholder our client accepted a part 36 offer of £10,000 in damages with all repairs to be completed within 120 days plus all their legal costs recovered by the other side.

Our client’s had up until the point of instruction lived in a extreme state of disrepair for a total 8 years and whilst the most important thing for our client’s physical and mental health was getting their home repaired and them back to a good standard of living, the compensation payout that they received for all the distress and health implications caused came a close second.

For more information on how compensation is generally calculated, read our article on this subject: