Suitable housing - is your home fit to live in?
Your home needs to be in a good state of repair, be sound and secure and not have any deficiencies that would endanger you or your family.
The house should be free from any progressive structural movement likely to lead to collapse or failure of any major part of the building. In particular look out for:
- leaning chimney stacks and pots
- sagging roofs
- bulging brickwork to the main external walls
- settlement cracks above windows and doorways
- distorted window and door openings
- sloping floors
It is advisable to call in a qualified surveyor prior to letting if you are unsure of the overall condition of your property.
Freedom from dampness
The house should be substantially free from rising and penetrative dampness. there a number of things you should look out for:
- rising dampness to ground floor walls - this is normally indicated by a damp tide mark usually about 18 inches above the floor level
- rising dampness to ground floors. Old quarry tile floors and poorly constructed solid concrete floors with no damp-proof membrane are particularly susceptible
- penetrating dampness to walls and ceilings due to leaking roofs and gutters, perished external brickwork and mortar joints, leaking hot or cold supply pipes
Excessive condensation can lead to mould growth particularly on the walls and ceilings of kitchens and bathrooms. Bedroom walls behind cupboards and wardrobes and beneath windows are also highly susceptible.
For many people, it is the efficiency of the heating system which has the most significant impact on their overall perception and enjoyment of the house. Your heating system should be efficient, safely designed and economical to run. It is in your interests in the long term.
While individual gas or electric fires are still widely used, they are not always the best method of heating in terms of cost and efficiency and are also in need of constant maintenance to ensure safety. Whole house systems of heating such as gas or oil central heating are to be encouraged wherever possible. In conjunction with an efficient heating system it is also important to have good thermal insulation.
In particular you should:
- ensure roof spaces are insulated
- consider replacing old draughty ill fitting windows and doors. Louvre blade windows are particularly wasteful in terms of heat loss as well as being an added security risk
- draught proof external doors and windows, (but not rooms containing an open-flue gas appliance
- ensure that all water pipes likely to be exposed to frost, such as those in the roof space are properly insulated or take other appropriate steps to prevent burst pipes during the winter, particularly when the house is unoccupied. Make sure your tenants know where the stop tap is in the event of a burst pipe
- ensure that the hot water tank is fitted with a good quality insulation jacket
The Energy Savings Trust Further can provide further advice on making your property more energy efficient. Further advice and practical assistance may also be available through the Warm Homes Scheme, which aims to address fuel poverty throughout Northern Ireland by making homes warmer and more energy efficient.
All habitable rooms should have adequate natural lighting to enable domestic activities to be undertaken safely. A clear glazed window equivalent in size to one tenth of the room floor area will normally be adequate. All staircases, landings, kitchens, bathrooms and toilets should be provided with a window wherever practicable.
Adequate electric lighting must also be provided to all accessible parts of the house, in particular:
- light switches should be suitably positioned so that they can be operated directly upon entering any room, hallway or landing
- there should be two way switches to enable operation at both the top and bottom of any staircase
All habitable rooms should be ventilated directly to the open air by an opening window. Kitchens, bathrooms and toilets should wherever possible also be provided with openable windows. Where this is not possible there should be adequate mechanical ventilation.
The use of automatic humidistat extractor fans is strongly recommended in all kitchens and bathrooms even where an adequate window is provided. This type of fan will remove moist air from the building before it condenses on walls and ceilings.
All rooms containing an open flue gas heating appliance and all kitchens, bathrooms and toilets should be provided with suitable and sufficient permanent ventilation by means of air brick or equivalent.
The Statutory Fitness Standard
In order to meet the statutory fitness standard a property must:
- be structurally stable
- be free from serious disrepair
- be free from dampness prejudicial to the health of the occupants
- have adequate provision for lighting, heating and ventilation
- have adequate piped supply of wholesome water
- have satisfactory facilities in the house for the preparation and cooking of food, including a sink with a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water
- have a suitably located water-closet for the exclusive use of the occupants (if any)
- have, for the exclusive use of the occupants a suitably located fixed bath or shower and wash-hand basin each of which is provided with a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water
- have an effective system for the draining of foul, waste and surface water
A house shall be deemed to be unfit if it is defective in one or more of the above criteria. It is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.