- Condensation, damp and mould
- Electrical safety
- Gas safety
- Keeping shared areas clear
- Fire safety
- Water safety
- Balcony, window and roof safety
- Tower blocks
Condensation, damp and mould
Mould growth in the home can have a negative impact on health, especially for small children and those with respiratory conditions. It is therefore important to treat and prevent mould. Depending on whether you are a council tenant, private tenant or own your own home, sources of support will be different.
If you live in a council home, please raise a repair request online, call us on 020 8379 1000 (option 4, then option 2 for council housing repairs) or email email@example.com.
If you’re a private tenant or live in a home managed by a housing association, you should contact your landlord to fix the issue. If the landlord does not treat the mould, you can contact us for advice and assistance via our Private Rented Housing team at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 020 3821 1761.
If you’re a homeowner, you can use the self-management advice below.
Some of the ways of preventing damp and mould in the home (such as ventilation and putting the heating on during cold weather) are very difficult to achieve at the moment given the cost of living crisis. Please see the sources of support available to residents on our cost of living pages.
Treating mould in your home
You can clean and treat small areas of mould growth safely yourself, using the method below:
- Before you start to clean, always protect yourself from mould spores by wearing goggles, long rubber gloves, and a mask that covers your nose and mouth. These can be purchased from a DIY retailer.
- Remove other family members and pets from the room whilst you clean
- Open the windows within the room but keep internal doors closed to prevent spores spreading to other areas of the house
- Have a plastic bag ready to take away any soft furnishings, clothes and soft toys that are mouldy. Clothes and soft toys should be washed at a high temperature to kill any spores, and soft furnishings shampooed or dry cleaned.
- Fill a bucket with water and some mild detergent, such as washing-up liquid or a soap used for hand-washing clothes. Specialist mould cleaning fluids are available from most supermarkets or DIY retailers, but hot soapy water works just as well.
- Use a rag dipped in the soapy water to carefully wipe the mould off the wall. Be careful not to brush mould as this can release spores.
- When you've finished, use a dry rag to remove the moisture from the wall
- Put the rags in a plastic bag and throw them away
- Wipe down all hard surfaces in the room, including furniture, to make sure you have removed all spores
Repeat this at the first sign of new mould growth, as well as wiping down any surfaces where moisture settles.
What causes condensation, damp and mould
There is always some moisture in the air. You may notice it when you see your breath on a cold day, or when the mirror mists over when you have a bath or shower. When the air is cold, it cannot hold all the moisture and tiny droplets of water appear. This is known as condensation.
Condensation occurs mainly during cold weather. It tends to appear on cold surfaces and in places where there is little movement of air, such as:
- in corners of rooms
- behind large items of furniture
- on or near windows
- inside built-in cupboards
Condensation is usually the main cause of mould growth in homes. It usually becomes noticeable when black mould starts to appear on surfaces, such as window frames, walls, and behind cupboards and wardrobes. It is generally worse during the winter months.
Damp is usually caused by water entering your home from an external source, such as:
- leaking pipes, wastes or overflows
- rain seeping through the roof where a tile or slate is missing
- a blocked gutter
- faulty window or door seals
- a cracked pipe
- rising damp because there is no damp-proof course or it is damaged (if it's rising damp, you will normally see a white tide mark about a meter above floor level, if you live on the ground floor)
You can tell the difference between condensation and damp, as damp will normally look like there is a wet patch, or it will leave a white tide mark on the wall or ceiling surface. If you can check the outside of your home, you may be able to see the cause of the damp. Damp requires a different treatment solution to condensation, sometimes structural.
Everyday living activities, such as cooking, drying clothes in the house, and washing produce condensation. Preventing the build-up of condensation is essential for treating it in the long term, otherwise it can cause mould. The current high cost of energy use may make some of these solutions more difficult than previously.
High condensation levels can be prevented or reduced by following the steps below:
- When you're cooking, put lids on saucepans and make sure windows are open or extractor fans are on
- If possible, try to dry clothes outside. If you need to dry your clothes indoors, make sure the door to the room is closed and windows are open. Try not to dry clothes directly on radiators as this will create more moisture.
- Make sure there is ventilation in kitchen and bathrooms. Ask your landlord to install extractor fans, or if you're a homeowner consider having these installed where possible.
- Check extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms are working. If not, you should get them fixed or replaced.
- If you use a tumble dryer, make sure it is vented to the outside. If you have a condensing dryer, make sure windows in the room are open.
- Put a small amount of cold water in the bath before you turn on the hot tap
- Don't run your shower for longer than needed and consider opening windows during and after showers
- Mop up any condensation you see on windows and sills
- Close kitchen and bathroom doors when cooking and washing to stop water vapour from spreading around your home
- Do not block vents or airbricks in windows and walls
- Pull furniture and wardrobes away from walls to allow air to circulate
- Do not fully draught-proof a room where there is a cooker or a fuel burning heater, such as a gas fire
- Do not draught-proof windows in the bathroom and kitchen
- If you can, use a dehumidifier to collect excess moisture in the air
- Make sure your property is sufficiently insulated
We carry out inspections and tests on all electrical mains installations serving communal areas of blocks of flats, in line with current legal requirements.
We also check the condition of electrical wiring and fittings inside council flats:
- when they become vacant, to make sure they are safe for new tenants
- after a leak or other problem, which may have affected the flats electrical system
- if a resident reports a concern to us
- after we have completed any major works to the communal electrical system serving the property
- at regular intervals during the tenancy, to make sure the system is in good working order
Council leaseholders are responsible for the inspection, testing and maintenance of the electrical system in their homes. If you're looking to buy a council lease, we advise you to get an electrical inspection report as part of the conveyancing process.
If we contact you to arrange an inspection of your home's electrical system, it's important you allow us access to complete this. This is to make sure you and your family are safe and the installation doesn't pose a risk. If the system is defective, it could electrocute you or start a fire.
For information about electrical safety and how to prevent fires in the home, see our fire prevention pages.
Electricity not working
If the electricity is not working in your home:
- Check you have credit on your meter or that you have paid your bill
- Check if your neighbours are affected - if they are, contact your electrical supplier
- Contact your electricity supplier if the electricity meter is faulty, vandalised or damaged (don't call the council)
- Turn off and unplug appliances until power is restored
- Don't use cooking facilities
- Don't use candles or gas cylinders
- Use a torch
Every year about 14 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by poorly installed and maintained gas appliances.
When gas doesn't burn properly carbon monoxide is produced, which is poisonous. You can't see it, taste it or smell it, but carbon monoxide can kill in a matter of hours.
If you suspect there is a gas leak:
- Open all doors and windows straight away
- Shut off the gas supply at the mains (a large lever usually next to the gas meter)
- Call the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111999
- Don't smoke, light matches, lighters or cigarettes
- Don't turn electric switches on or off
If you suspect a carbon monoxide leak:
- Open all doors and windows straight away
- Shut off the gas supply at the mains (a large lever usually next to the gas meter)
- Call the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111999
- Contact us so we can arrange for a safety inspection
- If you or your family have any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, seek urgent medical advice
Remember you should never:
- use a gas appliance if you think it is not working properly
- cover an appliance with anything
- block or obstruct any fixed ventilation grilles or airbricks
- block or cover outside flues
If you smell gas or suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call the National Grid free on 0800 111999.
Arranging your annual gas safety visit
If you're a council tenant, we will write to you every year to ask you to make an appointment with our Gas Safe contractor to carry out a safety inspection. This is to check and service your heating appliances and smoke detectors. If you need to change the appointment, you need to let the contractor know as soon as possible.
If you're not home at the agreed time, the contractor will leave a calling card with details asking you to contact them to rearrange the inspection. If you miss two appointments, the contractor will tell us and we will contact you to discuss the next steps.
If you don't allow us into your home to carry out the safety check, we will take legal action and you will have to pay any court costs.
During the inspection
You should make sure an adult over the age of 18 is at the property during the visit. If there isn't an adult there, we will have to rebook the appointment.
If you smoke, please open a window before the contractor arrives, and we ask that you don't smoke during the visit. Please keep small children and pets in another room whilst the inspection is taking place.
The engineer visiting you will show you their company identification and their Gas Safe ID card. If you're concerned about the contractor's identity, you should contact us.
During the visit we will check all gas appliances (such as boiler, heaters and fires), your smoke and heat detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors.
We don't check appliances that you own, but we will check any flue or chimney that services it.
If you own the appliance, you are responsible for maintaining it and arranging an annual gas safety check. Always use a Gas Safe registered engineer. To find an engineer, visit Gas Safe Register, phone 0800 408 5500 or use the test phone service on 0800 408 0606.
The contractor will let you know during the visit if any further works are needed to replace or repair any of the items tested.
If they find a fault with your boiler or other gas appliance which means it is unsafe, they will turn the appliance and gas supply off. If this happens, the contractor will tell us and we will contact you to arrange temporary heating if needed. We will also organise the works to replace or repair the appliance as quickly as possible.
If no faults are found, we will send you a copy of the Landlord Gas Safety Certificate within two weeks of your appointment.
If you're a council tenant and don't think a gas safety check has been carried out in your home in the past twelve months, you should phone us at once on 020 8379 1000.
Council leaseholder's responsibilities
If you're a council leaseholder, you must keep your home and gas appliances in good condition. You should appoint a registered Gas Safe engineer to do an annual gas safety inspection of any gas appliances in your home.
You can find a qualified gas engineer in your area by searching the Gas Safe Register.
Once you have completed your annual check, email a copy of your certificate to email@example.com.
If you rent your home from a private landlord or registered social landlord and your home has a gas appliance installed, your landlord has the same legal duties as the council.
Your landlord should supply you with a copy of a Landlord Gas Safety Certificate (CP12) at the start of your tenancy. They should also commission a Gas Safe Registered contractor to reinspect your home every twelve months and provide you with a new certificate.
If you think your landlord has not completed a Landlord Gas Safety inspection, you should raise this with your landlord via their complaints process. If the matter is not resolved via this route, you can contact our Environmental Health team for further advice and support.
Carbon monoxide - know the danger signs
The signs to look out for include:
- yellow or orange flames (except for fuel effect fires) - flames should normally be blue
- soot or stains around the appliance
- pilot lights that frequently go out
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- chest pains
- stomach pains
These symptoms are similar to many common ailments and may easily be confused with flu or simple tiredness.
If you suspect you or someone else is suffering from the effects of carbon monoxide, you should switch off any fuel burning appliances and seek urgent medical help straight away.
For more information, visit:
Keeping shared areas clear
We need you to keep all shared areas, including landings, stairwells, entrance lobbies, chute rooms and intake cupboards, completely clear of any items.
There are no exceptions to this safety rule. Items left in shared areas are a large fire risk and removing them greatly reduces the opportunity for deliberate fires. It also ensures that escape routes are kept clear, helping residents to evacuate from the building in an emergency. Items in shared areas can also reduce access for the emergency services. Examples of items often found in communal areas include:
- flower pots
- pieces of carpet
- children’s car seats
- tins of paint
We have introduced a ‘TORT’ procedure to help with the removal of items from shared areas. The TORT procedure allows us to remove items from shared areas and dispose of them.
We are sure that you understand the importance of keeping residents safe by having clear shared areas and we look forward to your continued help.
You can view important information about preventing fires, planning escape, risk assessments and commitments from your landlord, in our information about fire safety.
Most water systems contain some bacteria, including the bacteria that can cause Legionnaires' disease.
Legionnaires' disease is a respiratory disease, similar to pneumonia. It can be fatal in extreme cases, especially if you have a pre-existing medical or health condition.
To ensure our residents' safety, we carry out risk assessments to make sure there is no bacterial growth in our communal water services.
We also carry out:
- water temperature checks
- water sampling
- water contamination or bacterial infestation checks
Keeping your water clean and safe
There are steps you can take to keep your water clean and safe:
- Keep your hot water storage temperature at a minimum of 60°C/140°F. You can control the temperature using your hot water cylinder or combination boiler.
- If your home has been empty for several days, run the taps for a few moments to flush them through until the water cools down or heats up to the correct temperature
- If you're going on holiday for more than two weeks, consider turning the stop cock off, and running your taps and flushing your toilet. This is so water doesn't sit in the pipes or cistern whilst you're away. Unused water for long periods can allow bacteria to grow.
- When rinsing food or other items, don't allow them to touch the spout of the taps
- Clean showerheads and taps regularly to prevent limescale from building up
- After cleaning showerheads and taps, always run the water for several moments to remove any cleaning product
- Run hot water through taps and showers for about 5 to 10 minutes once every three months
If you notice your hot water system is:
- making excessive noise
- producing unusually hot water
- producing steam
you should report a repair and we will arrange for it to be checked.
Balcony, window and roof safety
If you live in a tall building, falls from height pose a significant risk to you and your family, especially small children.
It’s important you report any fault or damage to your windows, balcony railings or glazing to us at once, so we can make them safe or carry out an urgent repair.
This includes any damage to balcony or walkway railings, balustrades or glazing panels to communal walkways.
Residents are not allowed access to roof areas, unless the roof forms part of the buildings means of escape route.
If contractors or utility providers chosen by residents need access to roofs, they must contact us to get a permit to work by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
To make sure you and your family stay safe in your home, remember:
- Don’t disconnect the window restrictor on your window, unless you need to open the window fully to clean it. The restrictor is a safety device which prevents the window opening wide enough to allow a child to fall out.
- Never leave small children unattended in a room where windows or French doors leading to balconies are open
- Keep the area below windows and balcony railings clear of furniture or stored items. These could be used by a child to climb out of an open window or climb over a balcony railing.
- Don’t put any material (such as vinyl sheet or tiles) down on your balcony. This will prevent rainwater from draining properly and may also make the surface slippery when wet, causing you to slip and fall.
Remember, if there is a fault or a repair is needed to your windows or balcony railings, you should report this to us at once.