Facts and Figures
A family of four produces up to 13 litres of water per day on average, unless the moisture filled air is expelled from the property. Everyday activities like cooking liquids in a pan with the lid off, steam ironing or ironing damp clothes, drying clothes indoors, showering, tumble drying with faulty extract ducting washing floors and even breathing creates moisture.
Mould and damp are produced by excess moisture and this can apply to newly built homes where plaster may still be drying out, as well as older properties. Moulds produce allergens which may cause an allergic reaction, or asthma attacks.
Housing quality has a significant and material impact on health and wellbeing.
Condensation and damp in homes can lead to mould growth, and inhaling mould spores can cause allergic type reactions, the development or worsening of asthma, respiratory infections, coughs, wheezing and shortness of breath.
Living in a cold home can worsen asthma and other respiratory illnesses and increase the risk of heart disease and cardiac events. It can also worsen musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis.
Cold or damp conditions can have a significant impact on mental health, with depression and anxiety more common among people living in these conditions. Each year, the NHS spends an estimated £1.4 billion annually on treating illnesses associated with living in cold or damp housing. When wider societal costs are considered, such as healthcare, that figure rises to £15.4 billion.
According to the English Housing Survey, around 904,000 homes in England had damp problems in 2021. Of these, around 11% in the private rented sector had damp problems compared with 4% in the social-rented sector and 2% of owner-occupied homes.
In 2019, an estimated 653,000 households in England lived with a ‘category 1 hazard’ of excess cold – i.e. a home with poor energy efficiency that could lead to cold conditions posing a serious risk to health and safety.
Some households are likely to be disproportionately affected by cold and damp. Households with children are more likely than others to have damp in their home, while households with over-60s are most likely to live with an excess cold hazard.
In 2022, the media reported widely on poor conditions caused by damp and mould in social and private rented housing. This was preceded by reporting on the case of two-year old Awaab Ishak who died in 2020 due to prolonged exposure to mould in his home.
Cold or damp housing creates an additional burden on the NHS which is already struggling to keep up with demand.
Following the coroner’s report on the death of Awaab Ishak, the Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, wrote to all council leaders and social housing providers in England setting out expectations in relation to damp and mould. It’s expected that the Social Housing Regulation Bill, currently before Parliament, will strengthen tenants’ rights to hold their landlords to account for poor housing conditions.
The Regulator of Social Housing in England also wrote to housing providers seeking assurances on action to address damp and mould risks. Similar assurances have been sought by ministers and regulators in the devolved administrations.
There are also proposals to extend the Decent Homes Standard in England to apply to private landlords and to make breaches a criminal offence. Scotland is considering a new housing standard to apply to all homes.
Source: House of Commons library
A study by Utilita Energy highlighted on express.co.uk found that over a fifth of UK homes suffer from mould, damp, or condensation with owners unsure how to control the problem – or what causes it. A study of 2,000 adults found one in four (24 percent) have found mould in their property, and 21 percent are currently living with damp – while 20 percent regularly endure “excessive” condensation.
Among the most common surfaces to be affected are windows (65%), walls (61 %), and ceilings (43%).
Yet, despite it being such a big problem, 24% are not confident they truly know why the likes of condensation, damp, or mould occur, and a third struggle when it comes to reducing or removing such problems.
As a result, those polled have ventilated areas when drying clothes indoors (34 %), kept lids on pans when cooking (29%), and opened windows at night (23%).
Others have invested in anti-mould spray (36%), dehumidifiers (36%), and portable heaters (16%).
And 71% have spent money in an effort to get rid of damp, condensation, or mould in the past 18 months – an average of £92.
The study also found renters seem to suffer more, with 34% of them living with mould – compared to 22% of homeowners, and 27% of renters are suffering with damp, in contrast to just 19 percent of owners.
More than a third of tenants (35%) reached out to their landlord for help or advice – only for 44% to not hear back.
As a result of condensation specifically, one in four have been forced to throw away soft furnishings such as cushions or blinds – while 23% have had to replace clothes, and 12% have even relocated for good.