Health and safety standards for rented homes

All rented properties must meet certain standards to make them safe and fit to live in. The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is used to assesses these standards.

How does the HHSRS work?

If conditions in your home are bad, they could put your health at risk or cause a serious nuisance to neighbours or the public.

In situations like these, the environmental health department of your local council may be able to help.

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) aims to ensure that your home doesn't have any serious hazards, and enables a council to take action against landlords whose properties are dangerous.

What is an HHSRS assessment?

The HHSRS assesses faults in your house and how they might affect your health and safety. The HHSRS considers how likely it is that a hazard would occur and how serious the outcome would be.

The HHSRS assessment looks at whether your home has:

  • dampness, condensation, and mould growth
  • rats, cockroaches and other vermin infestations
  • broken glass, falling plaster, or dangerous or decaying stairs
  • faulty or dangerous gas or electrical installations
  • blocked drains or 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 the house.

HHSRS and shared houses

If you live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO), there are also limits on the number of people who can live in the property. The number of people allowed to live there 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 are not adequate.

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

Don't delay, your home may be dangerous.

How to deal with hazards in your rented home

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.

Read more about reporting repairs to your landlord.

If your landlord does nothing, contact the council.

Use Shelter's template letter to write to the council about repair problems in your home.

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

Repair problems in a shared home

If you live in a house in multiple occupation you should be able to report any problem to your local council's environmental health officer.

You can report problems in confidence. The council does not have to say who contacted it.

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. They can do this by:

  • issuing a hazard awareness notice – this warns the landlord that the council is aware of the problem
  • giving your landlord an improvement notice, ordering the landlord to carry out certain repairs or improvements by a certain time
  • 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
  • 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 if the council won't help you?

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 about the council to the Housing Ombudsman if it fails to act.

Get advice about complaining or taking legal action. Use our directory to find a local advice centre.

Moving out of your home because of hazards

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 or it's being demolished.

If you don't have anywhere else to go, the council may have a duty to rehouse you. Get advice as you may not be entitled to help from the council.

Get advice about standards in rented homes

Get 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 centres.

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

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