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Damp Advice

(15 Posts)
pocketsized Mon 02-Feb-15 22:11:31

Hi All,

Hoping you use your extensive collective knowledge to help solve a problem... We own a 1930's semi in the North West. We lived there until about 12 months ago, when we (unexpectedly, it wasn't part of the plan!) moved across the country and started renting it out. About 6 months before we moved we had all of the damp course re-done and most of the downstairs plaster replaced.

Fast forward to now - our letting agents have finally decided to bother telling us that the tenant has been reporting damp issues for the last 6 months, in the kitchen, the bathroom upstairs and a bedroom (both on the same side of the house, one at the back, and one at the front.) Being as the letting agents are totally incompetent (a whole other thread - but trust me, they are, and we are in the process of trying to change,) we are 4 hours away and I am heavily pregnant so whilst going to look ourselves is possible, it's a bit of a last resort. I am struggling to work out what to do next.

We have every intention of getting this sorted for the tenant as soon as we can, but I don't want to waste money/get ripped off. We need a tradesperson to go round and have a look I suppose, I guess it could be a gutter issue, a roof issue, a condensation issue, a pointing problem, something else... - but what sort of tradesperson do we get out to decide? Presumably we would need different people to actually repair the problem depending on what is causing it. Should we pay up straight away for a damp specialist, or would a regular builder be able to pick up anything obvious and narrow down the causes? It will be inconvenient for the tenant if they have to keep being in to have different people look at the problem (although I have no doubt they would if necessary, they have had enough inconvenience without causing more if I can avoid it.)

Your thoughts on how to proceed are much appreciated!

OliviaBenson Mon 02-Feb-15 22:39:47

Do the kitchen and bathroom have extractor fans?

I'd be wanting to find out if your tenants dry washing indoors and air the place.

You should also check the roof and gutters- do you know anyone trustworthy in the area who can do this?

Where was the damp treated before and how? What was the cause then?

pocketsized Mon 02-Feb-15 22:59:33

Hi Olivia
There are extractor fans in both rooms, but they are not particularly new and may not work that well/have broken and gone unnoticed I suppose - this is something I could ask the tenant to confirm.

We have a very trustworthy electrician and plumber, but have not got any family etc close by. It is possible that the letting agents could recommend someone, but I'm not sure I have much faith in them. I am beginning to think that DH is going to have to take a bit of a road trip!

We had the damp course replaced downstairs as the original survey when we bought the house indicated that the existing one was breaking down due to old age. The plaster in all of downstairs was removed to waist/shoulder height, the damp course was redone, and the plaster replaced. In the kitchen the damp course was inserted from the outside as we couldn't afford to rip out the kitchen units - all accessible plaster was rreplace, but it was not practical to replace the plaster behind the units so this was left in situ. We were led to believe that as no further water would be getting in, this would not cause significant problems.... Unsure now if this was true!

housepicturesqueclub Tue 03-Feb-15 15:25:28

Damp 'specialists' are Damp proofing salesmen. A lot of damp proofing carried out is unnecessary and ineffective.

I'd say send someone who can check the gutters, get on the roof if necessary, someone who can trace the cause. Personally I'd want to go a see myself.

pocketsized Wed 04-Feb-15 08:45:43

Thanks for replying, we have decided to send DH on the 8hr round trip to go and take a look (not sure he'll have any idea what he's looking at but hey ho!) - he will then make a call about getting someone out. Fingers crossed it's not too tricky to sort out - the timing is terrible!

specialsubject Wed 04-Feb-15 14:00:07

things to check as noted:

- make sure extractor fans work and are being used. Wire them in to the lights, consider a short run-on so they don't annoy tenants.
- ask about lifestyle: lids on pans, normal length showers (five minutes not twenty), not drying washing on radiators. Do they have somewhere to dry washing outside? Do they have a vented tumble dryer?

Also check gutters, any flat roof etc.

if it was fine when you lived there my bets are on condensation (tenant problem) and/or gutters (your problem). Not unreasonably, tenants don't look at or clean gutters.

and change agents to ones who actually do something. You need the property checked six-monthly and information passed on. Consider giving your tenants a mobile number for you; switch it off at night but that way they can at least contact you.

SoMuchForSubtlety Wed 04-Feb-15 14:10:16

Your contact details should be on the lease, all of my leases have always had the landlords details on them including phone number? As tenants we've always preferred to have an email address for the landlord - if there is any issue the agents are generally useless so we tend to let the landlord know as well.

I think a roofer is your best first step, I agree with special that water is most likely to be coming from there or from internal condensation.

And while you sort it out you can also get a good dehumidifier for about £150 - ours is a Meaco DD8L and it keeps the whole house dry (which is a similar age to yours retrospectively double-glazed so terrible condensation issues).

CheeseBadger Wed 04-Feb-15 14:40:51

Whatever you do, don't get a "damp specialist" in. They're snake oil salesmen. They'll almost certainly tell you that the recent DPC has failed and needs redoing. In reality, your surveyor was almost certainly also a charlatan, and the DPC wasn't needed in the first place. Because there is more or less no such thing as rising damp.

Get DH to take loads of pictures when he goes over there, and post them here. I bet we can work it out.

Unfortunately, you won't get much out of talking to your tenant, because they'll tell fibs about keeping windows open and not drying clothes in the house...

pocketsized Wed 04-Feb-15 14:59:03

Aww, thanks all. I will write DH a list of things to think about/look at while there.

We now do have contact details for the tenant, and are in the process of changing agents. No idea how you are supposedtofind a decent one though, this one came well recommended and has been terribl.

special we did have some minor issues in the kitchen, but none upstairs while we were there, and nothing like what the tenant is reporting. How wet can things get with condensation? I hate Adams feeling house and have always been very careful to avoid drying washing etc so no idea how bad a problem it can be. The property has a garden and washing line, so no need for excessive amounts of washing in the house IMO.

somuch great idea about the dehumidifier - I will getc DH to sort one while he is there.

cheesebadger whilst you may well be right (I have no idea about thesethings!) when we had the work done the lower half of the plaster on external walls was visibly damp - is this likely to have been caused by something other than "rising damp"?

I will get DH to take photos when he goes up on Friday. I miss my lovely house and it makes me sad to think of it all damp and nasty sad

CheeseBadger Wed 04-Feb-15 15:19:14

I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but if it really was rising damp, you were incredibly unlucky. It almost always turns out to be penetrating damp caused by leaking gutters, or badly fitted windows and doors, a change in outside ground level, or some sort of condensation problem.

I've been in two houses in the last 10 years where surveyors and "damp specialists" insisted a DPC was needed. And I've only lived in two houses in the last 10 years.

I even had to allow a permanent retention on my current mortgage because of this insistence on a DPC being fitted. Needless to say, I've now permanently fixed every damp patch in the house without resorting to a DPC. But can't get hold of the retained money because the building society want evidence of a DPC.

Surveyors and "damp specialists" are not my favourite people...

specialsubject Wed 04-Feb-15 17:10:48

I'm afraid things can get REALLY bad with condensation. If people dry washing indoors, never open windows, have long showers, don't use extractors etc etc they can wreck a place.

not saying your tenants are doing this, of course.

You MUST dissociate, rule no 1. The house is now a business asset and you insure it against damage, accidental or otherwise. Let go.

wobbleinprogress Wed 04-Feb-15 17:21:14

Do the walls have cavities or gaps. This happened to my friends and because of the way the house was constructed there was 100 years of crap between the walls ( I know Victorian houses don't have cavities like the new ones but somehow it had happened). This was causing the original damp which they tried to get fixed with a new damp proof course, but 6 months after the damp was back because it wasn't rising damp, it was the gaps in the walls being bridged. Had to get the walls cleared out and replastered.

pocketsized Wed 04-Feb-15 18:58:03

Hi special

I know I need to dissociate, but it's difficult at the property was bought to be our family home, I wasn't planning on having to leave it to the care of others!

wobble there are no cavities that I am aware of - we have investigated having better insulation put in and have been told it would have to be external as there are no cavities to insulate...

charlestonchaplin Wed 04-Feb-15 19:35:36

Victorian walls can have cavities.

specialsubject Thu 05-Feb-15 11:06:23

been there - after you haven't lived in the place for a while the 'tie' will wear off. And remember all damage can be repaired. Just make sure you have all the insurances.

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