Health and safety problems in rented housing

If you are a private, council or housing association tenant, find out what you can do if your rented home isn't safe or healthy to live in.

What are health and safety hazards?

A hazard is a problem in a home that could harm the health or safety of someone living there. A safe home should be free of serious risks.

Health hazards include problems with damp and mould or with pests such as rats, mice or cockroaches. A cold home that lacks effective heating and insulation could be a health hazard. 

Safety hazards in the home include faulty wiring, fire risks and the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Health and safety risks in the home are assessed using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

Help from the council

You can complain to the council about serious health or safety hazards in your home. An environmental health officer should inspect your home if you ask.

What the council can do depends on how serious the problem is and who your landlord is. Category 1 hazards are the most serious.

The council must take action if it finds any category 1 hazards in your home if you're in private rented housing or a housing association home.

If you rent from the council, environmental health can advise the housing department what needs to be done.

You can also ask the council to inspect a neighbouring property if it affects your health and safety.

How to deal with damp and mould

This is one of the most common problems affecting health.

Help with common health and safety problems

Find out what you can do about:

Find out what you can do if you are worried about fire safety, gas safety or electrical safety.

Private rented housing

If there's a risk to your health and safety, the council can take enforcement action to make a private landlord carry out work to improve conditions in your home. 

For example, the council could order your landlord to do repairs or make improvements if there's:

  • no heating at all
  • faulty wiring
  • damp or mould causing health problems

The council can take emergency remedial action if it thinks you could suffer serious harm. It can decide to fix the problems itself and then charge your landlord for the work.

For less serious situations, the council could just give your landlord notice that it's aware of the problem and provide advice on how to solve it.

Repairs problems often contribute to poor conditions in a home. Landlords are responsible for most repairs in private rented housing.

Some private tenants may be at risk of revenge eviction for complaining. You might get some protection if your tenancy started after 1 October 2015.

Housing association homes

Repairs problems can cause a risk to health and safety. 

Not all problems are solved this way. The council can take action to get your housing association landlord to improve conditions in your home that pose a health or safety risk. 

Examples of when the council could order your landlord to do repairs or make improvements include if there's:

  • damp or mould causing health problems
  • broken steps at the top of the stairs
  • a faulty boiler

You can make a formal complaint to the housing association if it doesn't do the works needed.

If you're not happy with the way your complaint is investigated, you can complain to the Housing Ombudsman.

You could also consider taking legal action to get repairs done or claim compensation

Council housing

Contact your council's housing office if you are worried that the conditions in your home are a health or safety risk. Ask the council to do any repairs that may be making the problem worse.

You can also ask the council's environmental health officer to inspect your home. Environmental health can advise your housing office what needs to be done to improve conditions in your home.

You can make a formal complaint to the council if they don't do the repairs or works needed. If you're not happy with the way your complaint is investigated, you can complain to the Housing Ombudsman.

Councils often have improvement programmes so their homes meet the Decent Homes Standard. This says council housing should be free of category 1 hazards. Ask your landlord if improvements are planned for your home.

Houses in multiple occupation

There are additional health and safety requirements for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). These are shared homes containing multiple household such as bedsits, shared student housing and hostels.

Private tenancies provided by the council

A private rented tenancy offered to you by the council because you're homeless shouldn't pose a risk to your health and safety. The council should find you somewhere else to live.

Find out more about suitable and unsuitable housing offers.

Further advice

Get advice from a housing adviser about poor conditions in your home. Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.

 

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