Checking your home is fit to live in

Your home needs to be secure, sound and in a good state of repair so that you, your family and any visitors are safe. If you rent your home from a private landlord, your accommodation must meet the fitness standard.

Structural stability

The house should not have any progressive structural movement that could cause any part of the building to fail or collapse.  You should look 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

Before letting a house to tenants, the landlord should ask a qualified surveyor to check the condition of the property.

Damp

The house should be free from rising and penetrative dampness which could damage your health. You should check 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 water pipes

Condensation can lead to mould growth on walls and ceilings in kitchens and bathrooms. Condensation also gathers on bedroom walls behind cupboards and wardrobes and beneath windows. 

Heating

Your heating system should be efficient, safely designed and cost effective to run. 

Gas or electric fires are still widely used, but these heating methods aren't always efficient or cost-effective. These also need constant maintenance to make sure they're in safe, working order. 

A gas or oil central heating system is the most effective way to heat the whole house.

Insulation

It is important to have good thermal insulation.

In a property rented to tenants, the landlord should:

  • make sure roof spaces are insulated
  • replace 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
  • make sure that all water pipes likely to be exposed to frost, such as those in the roof space are properly insulated or take other suitable steps to prevent burst pipes during the winter, particularly when the house is empty; make sure your tenants know where the stop tap is in case there is a burst pipe
  • make sure that the hot water tank is fitted with a good quality insulation jacket

To get give advice on making your property more energy efficient, go to:

Lighting

All  rooms need adequate natural lighting to allow people to do domestic activities safely. A clear glazed window equal in size to one tenth of the room floor area will normally be adequate.

All staircases, landings, kitchens, bathrooms and toilets should have a window wherever practicable.

There should be adequate, electric lighting to all accessible parts of the house including:

  • light switches suitably positioned so that you can switch on quickly when entering any room, hallway or landing
  • two way switches that switch on and off at the top and bottom of stairs

Ventilation

All habitable rooms should be ventilated directly to the open air by opening a window. Kitchens, bathrooms and toilets should have a window which opens wherever possible.

Where this is not possible, there should be adequate mechanical ventilation. In kitchens and bathrooms with windows, it is good to install an automatic humidistat extractor fan to moist air 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 enough suitable permanent ventilation by air brick or similar.

Fitness standard

There is a minimum fitness standard for all private rented properties. To meet the fitness standard, rented accommodation must:

  • be structurally stable
  • be free from serious disrepair
  • be free from dampness that could damage the occupant's health
  • have adequate provision for lighting, heating and ventilation
  • have adequate piped wholesome water
  • have satisfactory facilities in the house for the preparation and cooking of food, including a sink with hot and cold water
  • have a suitably located water-closet for the occupant's exclusive use
  • have, for the occupant's exclusive use a suitably located fixed bath or shower and wash-hand basin each with hot and cold water
  • have an effective system for the draining of foul, waste and surface water

Rented accommodation that fails the fitness standard

If a privately rented house fails in one or more of the above criteria, it does not meet the fitness standard. It is not suitable for people to live in.  

If you think your rented home does not meet the fitness standard, you should tell the council's Environmental Health office.

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