My Tenant is Causing Damp to my Flat: Episode 3 (The Unexpected Twist)

Honestly, it feels like I’m writing some sort of damp-based drama series for Netflix, but real life is stranger than fiction, so here goes…

If you’ve missed episode one and two, you can catch up via the hyperlinks.

* * *

I think there’s a saying that all plans are made to be screwed up?

If there’s not, there should be.

Because that kind of feels like where we right now. However, let’s skip back to The Plan.

So, having been threatened with the tenant reporting us (by ‘us’, I mean me as the landlord and the agents as the letting agents) to the council, we decided to shortcut the process and contact the council ourselves. Help is what we needed to try and get this situation under control. And we were happy to make it official, we had nothing to hide and everything to gain.

But, this is the council.

I don’t know what we were expecting, having sent proof of the flat before he moved in and now two months later and the humidity readings, but to be quite frank, the response was lacklustre and non-committal. I guess the only good thing is that they did attach an up-to-date damp and condensation leaflet to give to the tenant, silver linings and all that.

So, the next plan.

Big boss letting agency man said we should get commercial dehumidifiers in the flat. This would then remove some of the humidity to a stage where we could deep clean the property to try and get the place back on a more even keel.

An electrician was also contacted to install humidistat fans throughout which would kick in when the humidity levels got too high and extract the air to more normal levels, thus preserving the fabric of the building. We decided on the silent type so as not to be too much of a noise nuisance.

We also decided to get an expert in to see if we could boost the insulation and see if there was anything more that could be done, from our end, to prevent the damp and mould.

And I have to admit, it’s an infuriating situation to be in, because there’s a lot of cost involved here, when all the tenant has to do is open the windows. But I have to be pragmatic and future focussed.

Doing nothing is not an option.

And when you look at the potential damage to the building – and the cost of rectifying that, I guess, in comparison, this is cheaper. Not as cheap as opening a window, granted, but I try and not harbour on this. Sometimes tenants will not do the simplest things to help themselves, and thus I have no choice.

To regain control of this situation we need to force air into the property, whether the tenant likes it or not. 

So this was The Plan. Stage one of contacting the council had been completed and thus it was time to move to the next stage. But then the phone rang, it was the tenancy liaison manager.

‘Sorry SL, I’m calling you with more bad news about this flat.’

‘OK,’ I reply, nervous as to what else could be happening.

‘The police attended last night.’

‘The police? Why were the police there?’

‘The tenant had an illegal lockdown party and they were all high on monkey dust.’ At this, I quickly typed ‘monkey dust’ into google, to learn it’s a synthetic drug (MDPV) which causes powerful hallucinations and paranoia, with many users climbing trees and buildings, plus it makes you violent. Highly addictive and unpredictable, the effects can last for several days. It can be bought for as little as £2.

‘Oh dear God,’ I reply.

‘So the tenant in the downstairs flat had to leave last night and stay with friends because it got so noisy.’

‘Oh my goodness, was it him who called the police?’

‘No, it wasn’t him, it was the tenant.’

‘Which tenant?’

‘The tenant who was having the party.’

‘Sorry, did I hear you right? The tenant who was having the illegal lockdown party where everybody was high on monkey dust was the one who called the police on himself?’

‘Yeah, you got it, he said he wanted the people to leave.’

‘Well, why didn’t he just ask the people to leave? He was the one who invited them there.’

‘That’s the other thing SL, I think we have a bigger problem here.’

‘What’s that?’

‘He thinks he works for CID.’

To be continued….

My Tenant is Causing Damp to my Flat: Episode Two

If you missed episode one of the tenant damp saga, you can read it here.

* * *

So I email the big boss of the letting agency to find out why inspections are not being carried out, to be told they are. There was some sort of misunderstanding.

‘OK,’ I say.

‘We’ve sorted an inspection, we’ll update you when we know more.’

My phone rings on inspection day.

‘SL, I’m really worried, I’m going to send you photos of the damage, but I think we need to get a roofer out there quick.’

‘OK,’ I reply, ‘but that’s a bit weird because I had a roof survey done last year and it got a clean bill of health.’

‘Just you wait until you see these photos!’ The tone is dramatic and I wait for some sort of equally dramatic music to kick in. It doesn’t, I’ve been watching too many drama series. The agent continues, in full emphasis of every word, as if delivering a Shakespearean tragedy. ‘And he has got the heating on. I don’t know if he was just doing it for my benefit, but it was really hot, way too hot. I thought it was like a sauna to be honest, there was water trickling all down the windows like in the tropics.’

I put the phone down and look at the THIRTY-SEVEN photos I’ve been sent of this one-bedroom flat. I swear I want to cry. Having refurbished this flat at great expense a couple of years ago, to see walls peeling with paint and black splodges reminiscent of a giant ladybird makes me so, so angry.

I decide to take a deep breath (that’s what the mindfulness book says I should do) and focus on my feet. Apparently, because they’re furthest from you, it grounds you more.

I make a tea.

I mull on the photos some more, while breathing very heavily and remembering to count to eleven on the out breath. Again, that’s what the mindfulness book told me to do in stressful situations.

How can it be the roof? If it was a roof leak how would you have saturated walls in every room? And if it was a roof leak, wouldn’t it start from the ceiling?

I can’t stop the questions flooding into my brain.

I inspect the photos closer. If it were a ground floor flat, I’d tell you it had a sudden attack of colossal rising damp, but as a top floor flat, it didn’t make sense.

I text the tenancy liaison manager back.

>I’m not convinced that’s a rook leak; can you show the big boss.

Now, the handy thing about the big boss at the letting agency, is that he’s also a builder.

Later that day, he sends me a message, he will attend himself.

He calls me. ‘SL, the tenant is clean and tidy, but the walls are saturated. It’s not the roof, it’s his lifestyle. He’s running the flat at humidity levels in excess of 75%!’

I’m not going to get into the long science of this, but this article explains why the hell you don’t do that. In a sentence: it’s bad for your health and the property.

‘I’ve confronted the tenant with the meter readings from my Protimeter Hygrometer, which shows the humidity.’

‘And?’ I ask.

‘It’s not my fault,’ was his position.

‘It’s nothing to do with me,’ was his default.

‘I pointed out to him he was distilling cider 24/7, I talked to him about the fermentation process, I told him how this was creating the excessive levels of humidity and causing the damp and that he needed to ventilate the property by opening the windows.’

‘Oh yes,’ I reply, already knowing how that old chestnut of opening windows so hated by tenants, but the easy cure all to every damp problem, would go down.

‘It’s blimmin freezing, I can’t be doing that,’ was his reply.

‘So I told him, that’s what he needed to do, and he replied, he wanted the damp sorting and it wasn’t good for his health.’

‘But he’s not willing to open a window and solve his own problem he’s created?’ I swear under my breath. I count to five. ‘So where do we go from here?’ I ask.

‘It’s OK,’ big boss replies, ‘I have a plan.’

To be continued… 

My tenant is causing damp to my flat.

6.15pm I make a pina colada. Before you ask, just because.

6.16pm the phone rings.

I glance down and scowl, it’s a handyman. I take a sip and answer the phone. The coconut cream has barely a chance to touch my tongue when the acrid taste of being a landlord overwhelms my senses.

‘I’m really sorry to bother you SL, I didn’t know who else to call.’

I hold my tongue, I want to say the agent, but manners dictate I reply not.

‘I’ve come to this property where there’s been a report of damp and it’s crazy.’

‘OK, what’s crazy?’

‘Well, this flat, this guy who’s moved in a couple of months back, there’s black in places where I’ve never seen black. I’ll send you photos now.’

I take a deep breath. I don’t want photos. I don’t want to hear about condensation mould. I eye my drink longingly and look at the Spotify music list I’d been about to play. I sigh and flick to the WhatsApp photos pinging through.

I’m pretty pissed off when I see them.

‘How has this happened?’ I ask.

‘The guy says he can’t afford to put the heating on. But he’s there brewing cider and there were four or five other people just sat on the floor drinking – they were all drunk!’

‘Sorry, did I hear you right? We’re in lockdown and what’s happening?’

‘There’s no furniture SL, there’s no bed, he’s just sleeping on a quilt. Can you see it in my photo I sent? Not even a cover on it! There’s no tv, no chairs, they’re just all sat around on the floor drinking his homebrewed cider. They’re well pissed, and they’re loud, making a right racket. I’ve had to get out of there as they’re making allegations.’

‘What sort of allegations?’

‘They’re saying the building is unsafe and so he doesn’t have to pay his rent.’

‘How is the building unsafe?’

‘They’re saying about this black mould everywhere.’

‘That he’s caused by not putting the heating on, by brewing cider and by having loads of people around like it’s a pub? Not to mention breaking the law given it’s a national lockdown!’

‘Exactly, that’s what I said to him. I said to him, “Listen mate, this is rented as a home not a pub, I’m telling the agent.” And then I called Mrs Violet at the letting agent and told her she needs to do an inspection straightaway to put the guy to rights, but she told me she wasn’t allowed because it’s lockdown and I says to her, “But how can I be allowed to come here and its lockdown?” and she says it’s because I’m maintenance. And so, I had to call you SL.’

‘I understand, well thank you,’ I reply.

‘I don’t want to be telling you all this bad news, but you know I have to be straight. If you don’t do something pretty quick that whole flat is gonna be covered in black within the next month.’

‘I understand, thanks.’

‘Oh and there is more…well, I bumped into the neighbour down below the flat where this guy is brewing cider and he’s not happy.’

‘I can understand.’

‘No, you can’t, it’s not just the noise and all them people, one of the cider vats fell over last week and leaked all through his ceiling, he was showing me the damage.’

I take a very large sip of my now bitter tasting pina colada.

To be continued…