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.
What is the HHSRS?
Local councils use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to assess if your rented home has hazards that could put your health at risk.
A hazard is a problem in your home which could harm the health or safety of anyone living there.
If the assessment shows your home isn't safe, the council can take action against your landlord. In some cases, the council may do the work and recover the cost from your landlord.
Who can make a complaint under the HHSRS?
The HHSRS covers any rented home. You can complain if you are a private, housing association or council tenant. The HHSRS can help you if you rent a house, flat or a room in a shared home.
If you rent your home from a private landlord or from a housing association, the council can take enforcement action against them.
If you rent your home from the council, environmental health should inspect your home. They can't take enforcement action against your housing office, but should tell them what needs to be done to remedy the problem.
Types of hazards you can complain about
Common hazards that affect health and safety in the home include:
- damp and mould growth
- excessive cold
- unsafe gas or electrical appliances
They also include the risk of falling on stairs, floors or paths leading to your home or if your home is vulnerable to intruders.
The hazards in your home are rated according to how serious they are and how likely it is that someone will be badly affected by them. The HHSRS takes into account any extra risk to young children or older people. A category 1 hazard is the most serious.
Category 1 hazards
A hazard that poses a serious threat to the health or safety of people living or visiting your home is known as a category 1 hazard.
Examples of category 1 hazards can include:
- exposed wiring or overloaded electrical sockets
- dangerous or broken boiler
- bedrooms that are very cold
- leaking roof
- mould on the walls or ceiling
- rat or other pest or vermin infestation
- broken steps at the top of the stairs
- lack of security due to poorly fitting external doors or problems with locks
The council must take action if its assessment shows that there is category 1 hazard in your home.
Action the council can take
The HHSRS assessment identifies who is responsible for doing any work that's needed. The council can provide advice to tenants where that's appropriate.
The council decides what action to take against your landlord if repairs or essential works are needed to improve health and safety in your home.
The council serves your landlord with a notice or order that sets out what they should do. The council can only serve one type of notice or order at any time. You should be given a copy.
Hazard awareness notice
A hazard awareness notice simply warns your landlord that the council is aware of a problem in your home and that it will take no further action for the time being. You should go back to the council if nothing is done or the problem gets worse.
An improvement notice tells your landlord to carry out repairs or improvements that are needed to remove or reduce the risk to your health and safety. The notice gives a time limit for your landlord to do the work. Your landlord can be prosecuted or fined if they don't comply.
Emergency remedial action
If it's likely that you'll suffer serious harm in the near future if conditions in your home don't improve, the council can take emergency action.
The council can do the work itself and charge your landlord for it.
A prohibition order puts restrictions on access to all or part of your home or places a limit on the number of people living in the property
The council can suspend the prohibition order so that people currently living there don't have to move out but new people can't move in.
These orders are not common.
In extreme cases the council can order that the building is demolished.
If your landlord doesn't do what the council orders
Contact the council again if your landlord doesn't improve the conditions in your home. You can ask the council to take further action.
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
- being demolished
The council may have a duty to rehouse you.
If you have to leave because the council made a prohibition or demolition order, you can claim a home loss payment of £5,300 from the council if you've lived in the property for at least one year.
Court action and complaints if the council won't help
You may be able to take your landlord to court if the council's environmental health department doesn't take action.
If you are a council tenant, you can complain to the Housing Ombudsman if the council hasn't done the work needed, provided you've already exhausted the council's complaints procedure.
Protection from eviction for private tenants
If you are a private tenant, you may get some protection from eviction if both these apply:
- you have an assured shorthold tenancy that started on or after 1 October 2015
- the council has served your landlord with an improvement notice or has done emergency remedial work itself
Detailed rules apply. Find out more about the risk of eviction if you complain about repairs or conditions in your home.
Find out more about how to deal with
- problems with housing standards in private rented homes
- repair problems and poor conditions in council or housing association homes
- problems in a shared home
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 centre.