Healthy Air Technology
Health risks for rented housing

Health risks for rented housing

29 September 2023

Damp and mould can be serious health risks for rented housing, since rental properties are often older and less well-maintained making them more prone to damp and mould problems.

What are the health risks of damp and mould?

  • Mould spores can trigger allergies and asthma symptoms. When people with allergies or asthma breathe in these spores, it can trigger symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing, and cause Eye, nose, and throat irritation and Respiratory tract infections: such as allergic asthma, bronchitis, etc.
  • Mould can produce toxins. Some types of mould can produce toxins that can irritate the airways and lungs. These toxins can also cause headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and other health problems.
  • Skin rashes and skin fungal infections: such as Candida albicans infection, tinea cruris, etc.
  • Worsening of chronic health conditions such as COPD and heart disease
  • Digestive tract infection: such as gastroenteritis, food poisoning, etc
  • Systemic infection: such as sepsis, endocarditis, etc.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: A humid environment can easily cause rheumatoid arthritis. This is because a humid environment is conducive to the growth and reproduction of mould, and the toxins produced by mould can stimulate the body’s immune system response, leading to the occurrence of arthritis. In addition, a humid environment can easily cause symptoms such as joint pain and swelling.
  • Cardiovascular diseases: A humid environment can easily lead to cardiovascular disease. This is because a moist environment can promote blood clotting and increase the risk of blood clots, which can lead to conditions such as heart disease and stroke. In addition, a humid environment can easily cause problems such as increased blood pressure and blood sugar fluctuations.
  • Mental illness: A humid environment can easily cause mental illness. This is because a humid environment can affect the body’s nervous system function, leading to emotional instability, insomnia and other problems. In addition, long-term exposure to moisture can increase the risk of illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of damp and mould. Their immune systems are not fully developed, so they are more likely to get sick from breathing in mould spores.

What are mould spores?

Moulds are a type of microorganisms that can grow and multiply in various substances such as soil, plants, animals, and food. Some moulds are harmful to human health and can cause allergic reactions, respiratory infections and other diseases, while other moulds are used to make industrial products such as food and medicine.

The size of mould spores usually ranges from 1 micron to tens of microns, and they have different shapes, some are spherical or oval, and some are elongated. Their shells are hard and smooth, which can protect the nucleus and cytoplasm inside from the external environment, thus ensuring their strong vitality.

There are three main ways mould spores are spread: airborne, contact and waterborne. Among them, airborne transmission is the most important way. When mould spores are suspended in the air, people can breathe them into their lungs, causing problems such as respiratory infections. In addition, mould spores can also be deposited on indoor walls, floors, furniture and other surfaces to form black mould spots, seriously affecting the hygiene and beauty of the indoor environment.

  • Mould spores are everywhere, even in healthy homes. However, they only start to grow when there is moisture present.
  • Mould spores can travel through the air for long distances. This means that they can enter your home even if there is no visible mould growth.
  • Mould spores can be very difficult to remove. Even if you remove the visible mould, the spores may still be present in the air or in the materials that the mould was growing on.

Responsibilities of landlords

If you are a landlord, you have a legal responsibility to provide your tenants with a safe and healthy home. This means that you must take steps to prevent damp and mould from developing in your properties.

Here are some tips for landlords to prevent damp and mould:

  • Keep your properties well-ventilated. This means encouraging your tenants to open windows and doors regularly, especially on damp days.
  • Fix any leaks or damp problems as soon as possible.
  • Insulate your properties to help keep them warm and dry.
  • Avoid using wallpaper or carpets in damp areas.
  • Encourage your tenants to report any problems with damp or mould immediately.

Are you an accommodation provider?

On 7th September 2023, the government published guidance on ‘Understanding and addressing the health risks of damp and mould in the home’ in response to the Coroners report on the death of two year old Awaab Ishak in 2020. Awaab’s tragic death was the result of a catalogue of failures and a housing provider that ‘abdicated its responsibilities to his family and hid behind legal processes’.

The report says that every person across this country deserves to live in a home that is safe, warm and dry.

The new guidance applies to all types of accommodation providers, including:

  • social landlords registered with the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH)
  • private landlords and managing agents
  • temporary accommodation providers
  • providers of asylum support accommodation
  • providers of accommodation for ex-offenders
  • tied accommodation

There are a number of legislative changes that will be made to improve housing standards, including:

  • Introducing “Awaab’s Law” to set out new requirements for landlords to address hazards such as damp and mould in social homes.
  • Providing new powers for the Housing Ombudsman and changing the law so that social housing residents can complain directly to the Ombudsman.
  • Reviewing the Decent Homes Standard and applying it to private rented homes for the first time.
  • Introducing new professionalisation standards that will require senior housing staff to hold, or work towards, recognised housing management qualifications.
  • Introducing the new private rented property portal and giving all private tenants access to an ombudsman if their landlord fails to resolve legitimate complaints.

It is important to note that tenants should not be blamed for damp and mould, and that it is the responsibility of landlords to identify and address the underlying causes of the problem.

The government’s response to the death of Awaab Ishak is a positive step towards ensuring that all tenants have access to safe, warm, and dry homes. The legislative changes that have been announced will help to improve housing standards and protect tenants’ health.

What can landlords do to support their tenants whilst remedial work is in place?

Landlords could consider using air purifiers whilst remedial work is being carried out within their properties.

An air purifier can be used in all areas of the home and will kill harmful bacteria and viruses, as well as destroying harmful pollutants such as mould and formaldehyde, turning it into CO2 and water.

See the range of air purifiers here.


Useful resources:

WHO Guidelines:

UK Government:


Awaabs Law news:

Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants:

Photo by cottonbro studio, Pexels, 4554230

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