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.

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 takes lots of different potentially dangerous things into account, including:

  • 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.

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.

If you live in an HMO and think any of these facilities are not adequate, get advice – use our directory to find a local advice centre, or call our free housing advice helpline. Don't delay – your home may be dangerous.

How to deal with hazards in your rented home

You should report any problems to your landlord in writing, and allow a reasonable time for them to be fixed. The time needed will depend on the urgency of the problem. If the landlord does nothing, you could send another letter, telling your landlord that you will ask your local council's environmental health department to inspect your home for hazards.

Use our sample letter to write to your landlord.

Use our sample letter to write to the council about repairs and hazards 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

If you are living in a house in multiple occupation you should be able to report any problem to your local council's environmental health officer, in confidence – they do not have to say who contacted them.

What can the council do 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.

If the council identifies minor repair issues in your house, they do not have to take action. However, they can decide to enforce the improvements, 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:

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

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, you can make a homeless application to the council's housing department. If you don't have anywhere else to go, the council may have a duty to rehouse you.

Use our emergency housing rights checker to find out what help you might be entitled to.

More information and advice on health and safety standards in rented homes

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 our directory to find local agencies, or call the Civil Legal Advice Helpline on 0845 345 4 345 for free initial advice.

Last updated: 1 January 2014