Law guide: Landlords

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Housing standards

Housing standards

Contents

Housing standards

A property is expected to meet certain housing standards to be considered fit for human habitation. It must be free from health and safety hazards. The landlord must usually make sure that the property meets these standards before the tenancy is set up and at all times throughout the tenancy. If the property you let out does not satisfy these criteria and is a health risk, a tenant may be able to take legal action against you.

England & Wales

You must make sure that:

  • Water, electricity, gas supplies and sanitation are in working order (for example, drains, basins, sinks, baths and WCs)
  • The room and water heating equipment are in working order
  • The property is free from any damp that could damage the health of the occupier

The property must have:

  • Adequate heating, lighting and ventilation
  • An adequate supply of piped, wholesome water, satisfactory facilities for preparing and cooking food, including a sink with a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water
  • A suitably located toilet and a suitable sewer and drainage system
  • A suitably located fixed bath or shower and hand basin, each having a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water

Scotland

A landlord must make sure that a property meets the repairing standard as set out in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006. It is the basic level of repair that all private rented properties must have. The repairing standard must be met before any tenancy starts and at all times throughout the tenancy.

The repairing standard requires that:

  • The structure and exterior of the property are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order (including drains, gutters and external pipes)
  • The installations in the property for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation, space heating and heating water are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order
  • The property has satisfactory provision for detecting fires and for giving warning in the event of fire or suspected fire
  • The property has satisfactory provision for detecting if carbon monoxide is present in a concentration that is dangerous for people
  • Fixtures, fittings and appliances provided by a landlord are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order
  • Any furnishings provided by a landlord are capable of being used safely for the purpose they are designed for
  • The property is wind and watertight and in all other respects reasonably fit for human habitation

If the tenant tells the landlord about a defect (that goes beyond normal wear and tear), then the landlord must fix it within a reasonable time. If they do not do so the tenant can apply to the First-tier Tribunal.

If the Tribunal decide that a landlord has failed to comply with the Repairing Standard then they will make a repairing standard enforcement order (RSEO) requiring the landlord to carry out the work within a specified period (at least 21 days).

It is a criminal offence not to comply with a RSEO. It is also a criminal offence to re-let the property to someone else while the RSEO remains in force (unless the Tribunal gives permission).

The RSEO is registered against the title deeds for the property and will remain there until it is revoked. As such, the RSEO still applies to the house if a landlord sells it before the works are carried out and the order is revoked. Therefore, having an RSEO on the Title may affect the marketability of a house as it cannot be sold as a buy-to-let property and the duty on the owner to complete the works in the RSEO still exists after a sale. It may affect the ability of a purchaser to obtain a loan over the affected property.

If the Tribunal decide the landlord has complied with the RSEO they will issue a Certificate of Completion and will take steps to remove the RSEO from the title deeds.

If the Tribunal decide the landlord has not complied with the RSEO without a reasonable excuse, the case will be referred for prosecution as a criminal offence. The Tribunal will serve notice of the failure on the local authority which may then affect the landlord's registration. The Tribunal may also decide to make a Rent Relief Order which reduces the rent payable under the tenancy by whatever amount the Tribunal decide, up to a maximum of 90%.

Northern Ireland

You must make sure that:

  • The property is structurally stable and free from serious disrepair
  • The property is free from any damp that could damage the health of the occupier

The property must have:

  • Adequate heating, lighting and ventilation
  • An adequate supply of piped, wholesome water, satisfactory facilities for preparing and cooking food, including a sink with a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water
  • A suitably located toilet for the exclusive use of the occupants and effective working drains
  • A suitably located fixed bath or shower and hand basin, each having a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water

Certificate of fitness (Northern Ireland)

Properties let in Northern Ireland may require a certificate of fitness. If the property requires a certificate of fitness, the landlord must apply to the local council to have the premises inspected in order to determine whether the premises are fit for human habitation within 28 days of the start of the tenancy, otherwise the landlord will commit an offence. If the landlord wishes, they can apply for this before any tenancy commences.

A certificate of fitness is required for properties built before 1 January 1945 unless:

  • a renovation or Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) grant was made by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive within the last 10 years;
  • the premises are registered with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive as an HMO; or
  • the local council has issued a regulated rent certificate within the last 10 years.

The council will carry out an inspection of the property and issue a certificate of fitness if the state of repair is satisfactory.

If a certificate of fitness is refused

If, on inspection, the state of repair is considered unsatisfactory the local council will issue a notice of refusal and the tenancy becomes a rent-controlled tenancy. This means the rent is fixed at a certain amount and you can't charge a higher amount. You can appeal within 21 days to the county court where the property is situated against the refusal of a certificate of fitness. You can appeal to the rent assessment committee within 14 days of the amount of the controlled rent being determined.

You can reapply for a certificate of fitness (after carrying out the recommended improvements). Once it's issued, the controlled rent status is removed and you're free to charge a market-based rent.

For more information on Certificates of Fitness and controlled rents, you should contact the Rent Officer. You can read more about the Rent Officer on the NI Direct website.

If you're not sure whether a certificate of fitness is required for the property, or for more information, get in touch with your local council.

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