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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Checking your home is fit to live in

Your council has guidelines to check that your home doesn’t have problems that could endanger you or your family. Find out what the council can do if your home falls below agreed standards and how property owners can appeal against any decision made by the council.

Checking safety in your home

By law, your council is responsible for the condition of all housing within its area. This includes both rented and privately owned homes. It uses a rating system called the Housing Health and Safety Rating system (HHSRS) to assess the potential dangers or hazards present in a home. Hazards arise from faults that could cause harm to people living in a home.

Local councils have the responsibility to ensure that action is taken by home owners and landlords to tackle any hazards.

Categories of housing hazard

The HHSRS assesses 29 categories of housing hazard. For example, a badly maintained ceiling could lead to several hazards like excess cold, noise and increased danger of fire.

The leaflet 'Health and Safety Rating System' on the Communities and Local Government website, gives further details about the different types of hazard.

Contact your council about poor housing conditions

If you are a tenant and are worried about conditions in your home, contact your local council’s housing department and ask for an assessment to be done. The following link will let you enter details of where you live and then take you to your local authority website where you can find out more.

How your home is assessed

An environmental health officer from the local authority may carry out an assessment on your home. The officer will look at the likelihood of an incident arising from the condition of the property and what the harmful outcomes might be. For example, the officer will assess the likelihood of a fire breaking out and what would happen if it does. As a result of the assessment, the council will be able to say whether the property has ‘Category 1’ (serious) or ‘Category 2’ (other) hazards.

What your council can do about hazards

If your council discovers serious Category 1 hazards in a home, they will first discuss with the home owner or landlord to encourage them to deal with the problems.  If this isn’t successful, then the council can:

  • issue an improvement notice to the landlord to carry out improvements to the property 
  • ban the use of the whole or part of a dwelling or restrict the number of people living there using a prohibition order
  • serve a hazard awareness notice to draw attention to the problem
  • take emergency action to fix the hazard where there is an immediate risk
  • order the demolition of the property where this is the most practical course of action

If a home owner doesn’t carry out the requirements of a legal (‘statutory’) notice issued by a council, they could face a fine of up to £5,000.

How to appeal against an assessment

If you own a property and feel that an assessment is wrong, talk to the environmental health officer. If this doesn’t work, you can challenge your council's decision through the Residential Property Tribunal. The Residential Property Tribunal is an independent organisation that decides property disputes.

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