Many homeowners and renters throughout the UK deal with damp and mould problems in their homes. This can lead to health problems and cause damage to personal property if left untreated. We’ve put together some of the latest statistics relating to damp and mould including how common the problem is and what causes it.

Key Statistics

  • Over half (58%) of privately rented households in England are dealing with damp, mould and/or excessive cold in their homes, this is approximately 2.7 million households.
  • 3.8% of homes in England have some form of damp problem, equating to approximately 912,000 households.
  • It is estimated that the NHS would save £38,356,200 per year on treating patients with damp and mould-related illnesses if damp problems were rectified.
  • The Housing Ombudsman received a 99.1% increase in complaints relating to damp, mould and water leaks in social housing from the year ending March 2021 to the nine months between April and December 2022.
  • People living in homes with EPC ratings of D-G are 73% more likely to live with damp and 89% more likely to experience excessive cold in their homes compared to properties rated A-C.
  • 40% of renters say they have felt stressed because of damp, mould and excessively cold conditions in their homes, with 36% saying they felt anxious about it.
  • Private tenants can claim compensation worth 25% to 50% of their rent payments if their homes are affected by damp and mould.

Contents

What causes damp and mould?

Damp and mould in houses are caused by excessive moisture which cannot dry out or evaporate as quickly as it should. Day-to-day activities like showering, cooking and drying clothes can all produce moisture in the home. Things that cause excess moisture and can lead to damp problems include:

  • Condensation – Moisture from the air hitting cold surfaces
  • Poorly heated homes – Colder air can hold less moisture than warm air
  • Leaking pipework – Allows water from internal or external sources into walls
  • A damaged roof – Allows external rainwater to enter the home
  • Blocked gutters – Water cannot run through gutters and spills over into walls
  • Poor ventilation – Moisture in the air becomes trapped and fresh air can’t get in

Types of damp in UK homes

Types of Damp in UK Homes

Identifying damp and mould

There are several common signs of damp which can help you identify a problem.

  • Patches of discolouration on internal walls
  • A musty smell
  • Dark mould spots on walls, ceilings, floors or around windows
  • Wallpaper that is peeling or lifting off
  • Peeling paint
  • Walls that feel cold to the touch
  • An excess of water droplets on walls, windows or window sills

Types of housing that suffer from damp and mould

Typically, older houses are the most likely to have damp problems as more recent builds tend to include a damp proof course and better insulation during the building process. Many houses built in the UK before 1925 were built using solid walls, but these are expensive and therefore the high cost of insulating them put many homeowners off paying for it.

Some households are more likely to be disproportionately affected by damp and cold conditions. For example, homes with children are more likely to have damp problems than others. Homes with a higher number of occupants are also more likely to experience damp. This is due to the fact that the more people are in a household, the more moisture is released into the air through bathing, cooking, drying clothes and other day-to-day activities.[1]

How many UK homes have damp?

Reports show that around 3.8% of homes in England that were inspected were found to have damp problems of some kind. This equates to approximately 912,000 homes in total that have some form of damp.

The number of homes with damp has been decreasing over the past 20 years; in 2003, 10.6% of homes in the UK suffered from damp. This is likely due to the fact that new houses are built with damp courses and better insulation which reduces the risk of damp problems affecting these homes.

UK Damp Statistics Over Time

Source[2]

It was estimated in 2019 that 653,000 households lived with a ‘Category 1 hazard’ of excess cold. In relation to excess cold, a Category 1 hazard refers to homes with such poor energy efficiency that it could lead to cold conditions that pose a serious threat to the occupants’ health and safety.

Other examples of hazards in the home include serious electrical problems, excess heat, pests, and carbon monoxide. These hazards become Category 1 if they pose a serious and immediate risk to the occupants’ health and safety.[1]

The number of people living in cold, damp or mouldy rented homes

Research shows that 1.6 million children in England live in privately rented homes with damp, mould or excessive cold. It is also estimated that more than half (58%) of private renters in England are dealing with one or more of these issues in their homes. This amounts to approximately 2.7 million households.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings measure how energy efficient a property is, ranging from A-G with A being the best and most efficient rating. People living in homes with lower EPC ratings (between D-G) are 73% more likely to live with damp than those with EPC ratings of A-C. Tenants living in a D-G-rated property are also 89% more likely to experience excessive cold in their homes compared to those in A-C-rated homes.[3]

Damp and mould in social housing

Data from the UK Government estimates that between 3% and 4% of social housing residences in England have at least some notable level of damp and mould. Between 1% and 2% have serious problems with damp and mould, and 0.2% of social housing have the most serious damp and mould problems.

In the year ending March 2021, the UK Housing Ombudsman (an independent organisation that resolves disputes between tenants and social landlords) received 1,993 complaints relating to damp, mould and water leaks in social housing. This number has increased to 3,969 complaints in the nine months from April to December 2022, showing a 99.1% increase.

Complaints and decisions relating to damp, mould and leaks in social housing
Year Complaints Decisions
Year ending March 2021 1,993 195
Year ending March 2022 3,530 456
April to December 2022 3,969 N/A

Source[4]

How landlords have responded to damp in social housing

Following a report into damp and mould in social housing, the Housing Ombudsman contacted landlords to determine what processes were being implemented to manage the problem:

  • 35% of landlords who were contacted said they now have a specific policy with streamlined processes in place to identify and respond to reports of damp.
  • 12% said they were in the process of implementing such a policy.
  • 19% have self-assessed based on recommendations from the Housing Ombudsman.
  • 41% of landlords who self-assessed based on recommendations have not yet made any changes.[4]

Cold and damp homes and the cost of living

While figures for damp problems in 2022 are not yet available, there is concern that the number of homes with damp problems could be on the rise due to the increasing cost of energy in the UK. Homes on typical use were paying roughly £1,339 per year for gas and electricity in 2021, this increased to £2,500 per year in 2022; this is an increase of 86.7%.[5]

On average, private tenants in England are paying £350 more on heating per year due to damp and poorly insulated homes. Those with the lowest energy efficiency ratings are paying £950 more per year to keep their homes warm.[3]

How damp and mould can affect your health

Living in a home with damp and mould can have a number of negative effects on your health. Mould produces allergens, irritants and sometimes toxic substances. These can cause symptoms such as:

  • Respiratory infections
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Red eyes
  • Skin rash
  • Asthma attacks (in people who suffer from asthma already)

Certain people are more at risk of having health problems relating to mould. These include children, elderly people, those with respiratory conditions like asthma, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant people.[6]

Health statistics of cold and damp homes

It is estimated that the NHS spends an estimated £1.4 billion per year on treating illnesses associated with living in poor housing including cold and damp homes. When including the overall societal costs of people living in poor housing conditions, the total estimated cost is £18.5 billion per year.

One study found that there were 74,946 category 1 hazards relating to dampness identified in England, with an average cost of £3,590 per dwelling to mitigate these hazards. This amounts to a total cost of £269,091,625 required to rectify the hazard.

It is also estimated that the total saving to the NHS would be over £38 million per year (£38,356,200 to be exact) if these hazards were mitigated. This means it would take roughly 7 years for the cost of rectifying damp problems to be paid back through savings to the NHS.[7]

Mental health implications

It’s not just physical health that can be affected by living in damp and mouldy conditions. Many people have reported the mental strain that these issues can cause, with 40% of renters saying they have felt stressed because of damp, mould and excessively cold conditions in their homes. An additional 36% say they have felt anxious about it.[3]

Can you get compensation for damp and mould?

People living in rented accommodation which is in disrepair, including with damp and mould problems, can often make claims for compensation.

How much compensation can you get for damp and mould?

The amount of compensation you can get for a damp problem in rented accommodation varies depending on the severity of the damp, but it can be roughly between 25% and 50% of the rent paid for the property.

Eligibility for a compensation claim depends on a number of factors. Tenants can usually claim if the property has deteriorated since they moved in, the landlord has been informed, and no improvements have been made within a reasonable time-frame.[8]

Damp compensation example

Below is an example of what a tenant could expect to receive in compensation if their landlord fails to rectify damp and mould issues in rented accommodation.

  • Level of disrepair: Severe damp ongoing for 6 months with damage to personal possessions
  • Rent per month: £1,000pcm
  • Value of rent for the period of the claim – 6 months: £6,000
  • Compensation at 40%: £2,400

Expert tips on how to prevent damp and mould

While damp and mould problems in the home can sometimes be difficult to avoid, there are some things you can do to reduce the amount of moisture in the air and then prevent damp and mould from forming. Here are some tips from Homebrite’s expert, Peter Gibson:

  • Try to dry clothes outside if you can to reduce moisture that evaporates into the air from your clothes. If you use a tumble dryer, make sure it vents to the outside.
  • Leave gaps between large furniture like wardrobes and sofas and the wall so that air can circulate rather than getting trapped behind furniture.
  • Use extractor fans when cooking and showering to ensure steam can escape, or open windows when doing these activities.
  • If you are able to, think about adding more ventilation to your home through new vents or extractor fans.
  • Try to avoid rooms becoming very cold, and if possible keep your heating on at a low level during cold weather to prevent cold surfaces from causing a condensation build-up.
  • Although you want to keep your home warm, opening windows periodically for 10-15 minutes can help by letting moist air escape.

Sources

[1] Health Inequalities: Cold or Damp Houses – House of Commons – https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9696/

[2] English Housing Survey – UK Gov – https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/english-housing-survey-2020-to-2021-housing-quality-and-condition

[3] More than one and a half children live in cold, damp or mouldy homes – Citizens Advice – https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/about-us1/media/press-releases/more-than-one-and-a-half-million-children-in-england-live-in-cold-damp-or-mouldy-private-rented-homes-citizens-advice-reveals2/

[4] Housing Ombudsman Report – https://www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Damp-and-mould-follow-up-report-final-2.2.23.pdf

[5] Average Gas an Electric Bill in UK Households – Nimble Fins – https://www.nimblefins.co.uk/average-cost-gas-electricity-bill-uk-household

[6] Can damp and mould affect my health? – NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/can-damp-and-mould-affect-my-health/

[7] The Cost of Poor Housing in England – BRE Group – https://files.bregroup.com/research/BRE_Report_the_cost_of_poor_housing_2021.pdf

[8] Compensation for Housing Disrepair – Freeman Harris – https://freemanharris.co.uk/compensation-for-housing-disrepair-claim/