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Understanding Damp and Condensation: A Tenant's Guide

Published: 04/12/2023

As the nights draw in and we go through our first cold snap of the winter, we explore what condensation is, how that differs from the other types of damp that you can experience, and what you can do to avoid it.

As a tenant, it's essential to be aware of common household issues like damp and condensation, as they can affect your living conditions, your health, and the maintenance of the property.

Damp and condensation are often confused, but they have distinct and different characteristics and causes.

In this guide, we'll explore the differences between damp and condensation, help you identify each issue, and provide valuable tips on prevention.

Distinguishing Between Damp and Condensation


Damp typically refers to the presence of unwanted moisture in the building's structure. There are three main types of damp: rising damp, penetrating damp, and condensation damp.

1. Rising Damp:
  • Appears on lower sections of walls, up to around 1 metre high, in most cases.
  • Causes damage to skirting boards and plaster. Can leave a salty white residue.
  • Often associated with faulty damp-proof courses, or where there is no damp proofing.
  • You will find this on the ground floor.
2. Penetrating Damp:
  • Enters the property from external sources like leaks, gaps in pointing, or damaged roofs.
  • Manifests as patches on walls and ceilings.
  • Spreads horizontally rather than vertically.
3. Condensation Damp:
  • Occurs when warm, moist air comes into contact with cooler surfaces.
  • Appears as water droplets on windows, walls, or ceilings.
  • Black (or sometimes green) mould forms on surfaces where water vapour condenses
  • Common in bathrooms and kitchens, behind furniture, or in wardrobes where there is low air flow.
  • More prevalent in winter and during cold snaps, less common in Spring and Summer,. Rarer in warmer countries.


Condensation is a specific type of dampness caused by excess moisture in the air. It is crucial to distinguish condensation from other types of damp, as the prevention and management strategies differ.

Identifying Condensation:

  • Forms on windows, mirrors, or other cold surfaces like exterior walls.
  • Creates water droplets.
  • Often occurs in areas with poor ventilation and/or insufficient heating.
  • Mould growth that is usually black forming on these surfaces.
Condensation is environmental and is sometimes referred to as a 'lifestyle' issue, which is rarely structural. This is also the least understood of all types of damp.

Did you know?

An adult will exhale between 12 and 24 litres of water vapour every 24 hours That’s a lot in a typical household, before you consider the effects of cooking and showering on top!

This water vapour has to go somewhere, which is why the below tips are important, to make sure that it doesn't create any condensation issue.

Image source: the Deposit Protection Service

Tips to Prevent Condensation

Now that we've clarified the differences, let's focus on condensation, a common issue in homes, especially during colder months. Here are some practical tips to help prevent condensation.

1. Ventilation
Ensure proper ventilation in your home by using extractor fans, opening windows, or using air vents, especially when showering, ironing, or cooking.
Ventilate regularly, especially in kitchens and bathrooms, where moisture levels are higher. Closing the kitchen or bathroom door when cooking or showering whilst opening the window will help water vapour escape without it condensing in other parts of your home.
2. Heating
Maintain a consistent, moderate temperature in your home. This helps prevent warm, moist air from condensing on cooler surfaces.
3. Use lids when cooking:
Covering pots and pans while cooking helps minimize the release of steam, reducing moisture in the air.
4. Insulation
Adequate insulation reduces temperature differences between indoor and outdoor surfaces, minimizing condensation.

Tenant Liability and Responsibilities

While landlords are generally responsible for maintaining the structure and upkeep of the property, tenants also have responsibilities regarding condensation:
1. Reporting issues promptly
Inform your landlord promptly if you notice signs of damp or condensation. Quick action can prevent further damage.
2. Routine Maintenance
Carry out routine cleaning and maintenance to prevent mold growth. Wipe down surfaces prone to condensation regularly.
3. Follow Property Guidelines
Adhere to any guidelines provided by your Letting Agent or landlord especially regarding ventilation, heating, and general property care. Applying adequate heating and ventilation are tenant responsbilities.
4. Seek Professional Advice
If after taking all these steps and the issue persists, you could seek further professional advice. The landlord may need to address structural issues contributing to damp.

By understanding the differences between damp and condensation, and implementing preventive measures, tenants can contribute to a healthier living environment and help maintain the integrity of the property.

Effective communication with Letting Agents and landlords and a proactive approach to maintenance can go a long way in ensuring a comfortable and well-kept home.