Whose responsibility is damp in a commercial property?

There is often a lot of confusion and misunderstanding when it comes to dealing with damp and mould in commercial properties. Although damp is more common in residential homes that are poorly ventilated and lack central heating systems, it’s also an issue within many commercial spaces across the UK too.

As a business, you’ll want to take great pride in your workspace. Whether you welcome customers or employ staff on-site, your commercial unit is often an individual’s first impression of your company. It’s therefore important to resolve any sign of rising or penetrative damp or mould as soon as possible, for health and safety and reputational purposes.

At a legal level, the presence of rising or penetrative damp is normally an issue for property landlords to resolve. That’s because rising and penetrative damp usually occurs due to problems with the building’s structure.

What is rising damp?

Rising damp exists when water from below a building’s surface moves upwards via porous materials like bricks and mortar. This is often caused by failed damp courses, which are designed to prevent the ingress of water above a certain level.

What is penetrating damp?

Penetrating damp occurs when water is allowed to enter a building, often due to structural issues with the property. This might include leaking or broken guttering or a blocked drainage system.

Understanding your landlord’s obligations

Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 states that commercial landlords are legally obliged to carry out repairs to the “structure and exterior of the dwelling”. Furthermore, the “supply of water, gas and electricity” and “heating and heating water” should also be maintained in working order. Rising and penetrating damp are typically derived from structural problems, so Section 11 obligates your landlord to correctly diagnose and resolve the issue or risk permanent damage to the property and its value.

The issue of condensation

Damp and mould caused by condensation inside commercial properties is a somewhat greyer area. It’s often hard to diagnose the blame in this scenario. Is it due to the tenant’s mismanagement of the building or is it the landlord’s fault for allowing the property to have inadequate ventilation?

The truth often lies somewhere in between. While tenants can be encouraged to change the way they utilise a commercial property, the onus is usually on the landlord to ensure their property is well-ventilated, particularly in buildings that retain heat well.

Your landlord’s duty to repairing damp and mould

Within your tenancy agreement, your landlord should state their commitment to property repairs and maintenance. However, they are unable to diagnose and resolve the damp if they aren’t made aware of it. As a responsible tenant, you should notify your landlord of potential damp as soon as possible to limit damage.

For commercial property tenancies that began on or after 1st October 2015, your landlord has no more than 14 days to acknowledge the damp issue. Tenants should receive formal notification of the landlord’s plan to resolve the damp and prevent it from happening again.

Should your landlord fail to respond within the 14-day window, you are within your rights to report them to your Local Authority. They have the power to issue a notice, instructing them to deal with the damp or mould without fail.

Pall Mall Estates have a wide range of low cost commercial properties across the UK. Take a look at our available spaces here or get in touch with our experienced team here.