Damp and mold in the house: who is responsible, the owner or the tenant?


Emma Potter

Excessive humidity in the home is a widespread problem that can seriously compromise the healthiness of the environment and the health of those who live there. In Italy, the law places specific obligations on property owners, especially when they are rented out.

But what exactly are the duties of the owner and the tenant when the house has humidity problems? And what can the tenant do if the owner doesn't intervene?

We explore the damage caused by damp and mold, the legal responsibilities of the landlord and tenant, and possible legal action if the problems are not resolved.

The dangers of humidity in a domestic environment

The optimal humidity in a home environment should range between 30% and 60%, maintaining an average temperature of around 18 degrees centigrade. Exceeding or not reaching these thresholds can make environments unhealthy, accelerating the deterioration of plaster, floors and furnishings, as well as encouraging the formation of mould.

These problems aren't just aesthetic: they can cause significant damage to the building structure itself.

Specialists from the Health Prevention Department of the Ministry of Health have highlighted how prolonged exposure to mold and high humidity can significantly increase the risk of developing respiratory problems, such as asthma and other functional respiratory complications, particularly affecting children and the elderly.

Legal responsibilities of landlords and tenants

In Italy, the law requires that every rented property be delivered in optimal conditions for habitation. This means that the owner must ensure that the property does not have problems such as mold and excessive humidity, which can make the home unhealthy.

If these problems emerge after the home has been delivered, the owner has the obligation to intervene with appropriate repairs at his own expense.

On the other hand, the tenant is responsible for the routine maintenance of the property, which includes adequately ventilating the rooms and keeping the house in good general condition. If the damp and mold problem is due to negligence of the tenantit will be his responsibility to take care of the necessary repairs.

Furthermore, if the problem persists and the landlord is negligent or unwilling to resolve it, the tenant has the right to take legal action. These may include requesting a reduction in rent, or even termination of the rental contract, as stipulated by the 1578 articles And 1581 of the Civil Code Italian.

Article 1578.
Defects of the rented property

If at the time of delivery the leased property is affected by defects which appreciably reduce its suitability for the agreed use, the tenant may request termination of the contract or a reduction in the fee, unless these are defects to be him known or easily recognisable.
The lessor is required to compensate the lessee for damages resulting from defects in the property, if he does not prove that he was innocently unaware of the defects themselves at the time of delivery.

Article 1581.
Supervening defects

The provisions of the previous articles are observed, insofar as they are applicable, even in the case of defects occurring during the lease.

Legal actions to protect the tenant

When the landlord doesn't address moisture and mold problems, the tenant is not without options. Italian law provides several courses of action to protect the tenant's rights.

Among these, the tenant can:

  • Request a rent reduction: This measure can be negotiated directly with the landlord or, in case of disagreement, it can be entrusted to the decision of a civil judge.
  • Request compensation for damages: If the mold and damp problem persists despite reports, and the landlord does not act promptly, the tenant can request compensation for the damage suffered. It is important to note that damages cannot be claimed if the owner takes prompt action once informed of the problem.
  • Termination of the rental contract without notice: If the apartment becomes unusable due to mold and represents a health risk, the tenant can decide to terminate the contract without incurring penalties, as required by the Civil Code.
  • Claim on the condominium: In cases where the mold arises from problems in the common areas of the building or from the actions of other tenants, the tenant can contact the condominium to resolve the issue.

These actions are designed to ensure the home remains healthy and safe for tenants, while safeguarding their legal rights.