Health and safety standards for rented homes

All rented homes must meet certain standards so they are safe and fit to live in. Local councils use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to assess them.

How the HHSRS works

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)  allows the council to assess if your home has any serious hazards that could put your health at risk or cause a serious nuisance to neighbours or the public.

It enables the council to take action against landlords whose properties are dangerous.

The environmental health department of your local council may be able to help.

The HHSRS assessment

The HHSRS assessment allows local councils to assess faults in your home. The assessment calculates how likely it is that a problem could be a serious hazard to the health and safety of you or your family.

The assessment looks at whether your home has:

  • damp, condensation and mould growth
  • rats, cockroaches or other vermin infestations
  • broken glass, falling plaster dangerous or decaying stairs
  • gas or electrical installations that are faulty or dangerous
  • blocked drains
  • problems with rubbish or sewage
  • unacceptable noise levels
  • damaged asbestos
  • smoke fumes or gases

It covers problems in communal areas and outside spaces as well as inside your home.

Council action if your home is unfit

If you report the situation to the environmental health department, an officer should come to inspect your home. 

If they decide that your home includes a serious hazard, they have to take action. This could include:

  • giving your landlord an improvement notice that orders the landlord to carry out certain repairs or improvements by a certain date
  • ordering the closure of all or part of a building or restricting the number of people who live in the property
  • taking emergency action to do the repairs themselves and reclaim the costs from the landlord
  • issuing a hazard awareness notice – this warns the landlord that the council is aware of the problem
  • making an order to demolish the property
  • buying the property from the landlord under the compulsory purchase rules

For less serious problems, they do not have to take action but they might decide to do so in order to avoid future problems.

What to do before you contact the council

Report any problems to your landlord in writing. Allow a reasonable time for them to be fixed. The time needed depends on the urgency of the problem.

Find out how to report repairs to your landlord.

If your landlord does nothing, contact the council.

Get advice if you are worried that your landlord may try to evict you rather than do the repair work. This may be easy for your landlord to do if you are an assured shorthold tenant, an occupier with basic protection or an excluded occupier.

Use Shelter's advice services directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you

Court action and complaints if the council won't help

If the council's environmental health department doesn't take action, you may be able to take your landlord to court.

You can also complain to the Housing Ombudsman about the council if it fails to take action.

Problems in shared houses

If you live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO), there are limits on the number of people who can live there. This depends on the number and location of cooking, washing and toilet facilities. The property must also meet fire safety standards.

Get advice if you live in an HMO and think any of these facilities aren't adequate or are dangerous.

Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre or call Shelter's free housing advice helpline.

If you have to move out of your home 

You can make a homeless application to the council's housing department if you have to:

  •  move out of your home because it's no longer safe for you to live there
  •  it's being demolished

If you don't have anywhere else to go, the council may have a duty to rehouse you

Further advice 

For more advice if your home is not fit to live in and you are not sure what to do, contact a Shelter advice centre, Citizens Advice, your local council or other local advice centre.

Use Shelter's directory to find local agencies or contact Civil Legal Advice for free initial advice.

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