General standards of fitness for rented accommodation
Updated: 18 Aug 2017
As a landlord you are obliged to keep the property wind and watertight and in good tenantable condition. In addition, you have a general responsibility to keep in good repair and working order:
- basins, sinks, toilets, baths
- water and gas pipes and electrical wiring
- the structure and the exterior of the property, including drains and exterior pipes
- installations for water heating and space heating.
In general, the house must comply with the following main requirements:
- All parts of the house should be in a reasonable state of repair and good working order. It is strongly recommended that you employ the services of a qualified surveyor to carry out a full inspection and produce a report on the overall condition of the house before letting it in the first instance.
- Emergency repairs such as burst water pipes, leaking roofs, faulty electricity installation, failed central heating or hot water boilers should be attended to within 24 hours wherever possible. Tenants should be left with an emergency contact telephone number to report any essential repairs as appropriate. Advice should be given to your tenants on how to turn off water, gas and electric services i.e. position of meters and stop cocks etc.
Where a landlord fails to carry out his repair obligations, the local district council have powers to issue a number of enforcement notices. The local district council also has the power to enforce repairs.
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
Again, 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.
In particular, look out for:
- rising dampness to ground floor walls (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 tenants, it is the efficiency of the heating system which has the most significant impact on their overall perception and enjoyment of the house.
The type of heating provided should be efficient, safely designed and economical to run. It is in your interests in the long term.
Individual gas or electric fires are still widely used, however, 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 (i.e. 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 to rooms containing an open-flue gas appliance)
- ensure that all water pipes likely to be exposed to frost (e.g. 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
For further advice on making your property more energy efficient contact the Energy Savings Trust.
The Landlords Energy Saving Allowance (LESA)
LESA is a tax allowance which lets landlords claim on their tax return against the cost of buying and installing energy saving items. To find out more about LESA, talk to your accountant or tax advisor, or visit www.hmrc.gov.uk
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.
- 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, as amended by the Housing (NI) Order 1992, a property must;
- be structurally stable
- be free from serious disrepair
- be free from dampness prejudicial to the health of the occupants (if any)
- 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 (if any), 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; and
- 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 that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition. This may make it eligible for a grant.
For further information on Houses in Multiple Occupation contact us.