Surely it was my worst nightmare come true: a tenant texted late one night to say water was dripping through the bathroom ceiling and also down the walls of the kitchen. I jumped in my car and raced over to the property.
It hadn't rained for a while so I thought there must be a leak from the tanks that sit on the roof directly above my flat and, as they hold gallons and gallons of water, I was seriously worried I had a major flood on my hands.
All the way there I was praying I'd remembered to renew my landlord insurance. I was so anxious to get to the flat to find out what had happened that when I was held up at traffic lights I actually thought about getting out of the car and running the rest of the way.
When I went into the flat I discovered the "dripping water" on the bathroom ceiling and "running down the walls" of the kitchen was, in fact, condensation. I was sorely tempted to wallop the tenant for nearly giving me heart failure.
Admittedly, there was so much condensation that it did look like a leak, but I wasn't surprised it was so bad because even though it was freezing outside, the two flatmates hadn't put the heating on, so any steam created when they showered, boiled the kettle or cooked a meal would have turned to water when it hit the cold walls.
The whole place had a slightly musty smell, too, so I decided to explore further. When I went into the bathroom, I could see the excess of condensation had resulted in black mould spores all over the ceiling, the walls and round the window frame. It was quite horrific.
I looked at the girls, both in fleecy PJs and fluffy dressing gowns, and I had to ask: "Why haven't you turned on the heating? You need to heat the flat or the condensation will get worse." But they were saving on the heating bills. I snapped on the Marigolds — I never go anywhere without rubber gloves — and cleaned off most of the mould with diluted bleach, but warned the tenants I'd be back if they didn't heat the place thoroughly.
Of course, I can't force them to turn on the heating, and I know how high gas bills can be, so I suggested they look into switching suppliers to get a cheaper tariff. Next day, I spoke to a builder about condensation. He suggested installing humidity sensor fans in the kitchen and bathrooms. Unlike the standard extractor fans I've got, these stay on until all moisture has been removed from the air. He also suggested I repaint the bathroom with anti-mould emulsion or put a mould eradication additive into the regular paint. All good advice that I will put into practice. I am also going to tell the tenants not to open windows when they shower or cook, as cold air flooding in makes the problem worse, and I don't fancy another midnight dash across town.
- Victoria Whitlock lets four properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock