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Fitness for Human Habitation UK

Privately rented properties in the UK have certain standards of living they need to adhere to by law, so that the property is safe, comfortable and suitable to be lived in. Although the landlord is responsible for ensuring their property is fit for human habitation, the tenant should be aware of their rights and responsibilities as well.

Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England and Wales)

Also known as HHSRS. This system is based on the hazards described in the Housing Health and Safety Regulations and is used by local authorities to determine if a property is suitable to be lived in. As a landlord, it is your responsibility to ensure none of these hazards exist in your property, as a tenant, it is up to you to report any of these hazards and avoid causing any yourself.

The hazards are as follows:

  • Damp and mould growth
  • Excess cold
  • Excess heat
  • Asbestos and manufactured mineral fibres (MMF)
  • Biocides (chemicals that treat mould)
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Lead
  • Radiation
  • Uncombusted fuel gas (leaks in gas appliances)
  • Volatile organic compounds (chemicals which are gases at room temperature)
  • Crowding and space (if a property is too cramped)
  • Entry by intruders (if the property can be easily broken into)
  • Lighting
  • Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse (including inadequate provision for disposal of waste water and household waste)
  • Noise
  • Food safety
  • Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage
  • Water supply
  • Falls associated with bath or shower
  • Falls associated with stairs and steps
  • Falls on the level (danger of falling on a flat surface)
  • Falls between levels (danger of falling from one level to another, for example, falls out of windows)
  • Electrical hazards
  • Fire and flames
  • Hot surfaces and materials
  • Collision and entrapment (risk of being trapped in a door or window for example)
  • Explosions
  • Ergonomics (physical strain associated with operating amenities, i.e. Very heavy doors)
  • Structural collapse and falling elements

If a tenant spots anything that may suggest one of the above hazards, they should report it to their landlord or letting agent first, to give them the chance to make the necessary repairs. If the landlord refuses, the tenant can report the hazards to their local authority, who will inspect the property and decide whether improvements need to be made.

Repairing Standard and Tolerable Standard (Scotland)

In Scotland, landlords need to ensure that their rented properties meet both the Tolerable Standard and the Repairing Standard as a minimum requirement before they let the property.

The Repairing Standard is as follows:

  • The property must be wind and water tight and in all other respects reasonably fit for people to live in.
  • The structure and exterior (including drains, gutters and external pipes) must be in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order.
  • Installations for supplying water, gas and electricity and for sanitation, space heating and heating water must be in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order.
  • Any fixtures, fittings and appliances that the landlord provides under the tenancy must be in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order.
  • Any furnishings that the landlord provides under the tenancy must be capable of being used safely for the purpose for which they are designed.
  • The property must have at least one smoke alarm in the living room, one in every hall or landing and a heat alarm in every kitchen
  • There must be a Carbon Monoxide detector in any room with a Carbon fuelled appliance (such as a heater or boiler, but not a cooker) or the appliance is fitted with a flue.
  • A qualified electrician must do an electrical safety inspection on the property every five years.

If a tenant notices anything that suggests the Repairing Standard isn’t being followed, you must report it to your landlord and give them to chance to make any necessary repairs.

If they ignore or refuse your request, then the tenant can take the case to the First-Tier Tribunal in Scotland.

The Tolerable Standard says a home may be unsuitable to live in if:

  • It has problems with rising or penetrating damp
  • It's not structurally stable (for example, it might be subsiding)
  • It does not have enough ventilation, natural and artificial light or heating
  • It's not insulated well enough
  • It does not have an acceptable fresh water supply, or a sink with hot and cold water
  • It does not have an indoor toilet, a fixed bath or shower, and a washbasin with hot and cold water
  • It does not have a good drainage and sewerage system
  • The electric supply does not meet safety regulations
  • It does not have a proper entrance
  • There are no cooking facilities – this does not mean the landlord has to provide a cooker, but there must be somewhere suitable for a tenant to install their own

Landlords should ensure these problems do not occur, while tenants should report any issues like the above to their landlord as soon as possible.

Fitness Standard (Northern Ireland)

Rented properties in Northern Ireland must meet the basic Fitness Standard and be fit for human habitation.

The Fitness Standard states that to be considered fit, a property must:

  • Be structurally stable,
  • Be free from serious disrepair,
  • Be free from dampness which could damage your health, this will not include condensation,
  • Have adequate provision for lighting, heating and ventilation,
  • Have an adequate piped supply of wholesome water,
  • Have enough space and facilities to prepare and cook food, including a sink,
  • Have a suitably located toilet for the exclusive use of the occupants,
  • Have a wash hand basin and either a bath or shower with hot and cold water, and
  • Have effective, working drains.

As a landlord, you must ensure your property keeps to this basic standard. As a tenant, you can have your local council inspect the property if you believe it is below the Fitness Standard.

The council may also issue a Notice of Disrepair to the landlord, this is when the property fits the minimum Fitness Standard, but there are parts of the property that have been deemed not fit for human habitation.

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (England)

For tenancies that start or renew after 20 March 2019, and for all tenancies from 20 March 2020, the property must follow the guidance outlined by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.

This new law states that rented properties must be fit for human habitation at the beginning and throughout the tenancy. This mostly covers the hazards outlined by the HHSRS, but importantly it states that tenants can take their landlord to court, without the need to go to the local authority first, if any issues are unresolved.

Use the Government guidance to see how a tenant can fairly take a landlord to court, and what landlords can do to avoid this.

Tips for tenants

As a tenant, you have the right to live in a property that is safe and comfortable. If your property has any hazards outlined in this guide, then we advise the following:

  • Always report the hazard to your landlord first
  • Keep a record of all correspondence with your landlord
  • Give your landlord a reasonable amount of time to respond
  • If you are not happy with their response, inform your local authority of the hazard
  • If your landlord or the local authority gives notice to inspect the property, be sure to give permission for them to enter or rearrange to a more suitable date or time
  • If you do not give your landlord reasonable access to the property in order to carry out repairs, then you may not be able to take them to court.
  • Any hazards caused by you, another tenant or your personal property will be your responsibility, not the landlord’s
  • Hazards caused by events out of the landlord’s control (such as storms or floods) may not have to be rectified by the landlord
  • If your case is strong, then you may want to take your case to court, where you may be eligible for compensation. Be sure to have records of your correspondence with your landlord, pictures of the hazards and any other evidence that may help your case.

Tips for landlords

Landlords should ensure their properties are fit for human habitation before a tenant moves in. To avoid issues we recommend the following:

  • Ensure none of the hazards outlined in this guide exists within your property
  • If your tenant reports a hazard, ensure you reply quickly with your next steps
  • If you feel that the hazard is legitimate and requires repair, always ensure you give the tenant 24 hours’ notice if you, or a contractor, is visiting the property to make their repair. You must also get the tenant’s permission to enter the property at the time you suggest.
  • Make sure you arrange any visits during ‘reasonable’ hours (not too early, not too late).
  • If the tenant refuses access to the property, seek legal advice and keep all correspondence you have had with the tenant. If the tenant blocks your attempts at repair, you may avoid court.
  • Do not serve a Section 21 notice to the tenant if the local council gives you an Improvement Notice or Emergency Remedial Action Notice; this is illegal.
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