Housing in poor condition
There are minimum standards that apply to all rented housing. The aim of such standards is to ensure homes are safe to live in, warm, energy efficient and do not cause harm or illness to the occupiers. The Housing Act 2004 gives powers to Local Housing Authorities (in this area South Cambridgeshire District Council) to enforce these standards.
South Cambridgeshire's Environmental Health and Housing teams work to ensure that homes in the private rented sector meet the required standards and are free of hazards. If necessary, enforcement action may be taken against some landlords who fail to maintain privately rented property, using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) provisions of the Housing Act 2004.
The landlord is normally responsible for:
- Ensuring that hazards in the home likely to affect health or cause harm are either eliminated or minimised
- The structure and exterior of the property
- The structure and exterior of the building, including the roof, guttering, chimneys, plasterwork, walls, windows and doors
- Ensuring that equipment for supplying utilities is kept in good condition. This includes: pipes supplying gas, electricity or water, flues (e.g. for gas boilers) and ventilation, drains
- Ensuring any gas appliance (including gas boilers) is safely installed and working properly. The landlord should be able to produce a gas safety certificate upon request. A Gas Safe registered engineer must test appliances every 12 months. A record of the safety check must be made available to you within 28 days of each annual check. Enforcement of gas safety regulations is the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive.
- The supply of hot water
Who is responsible for damp?
The landlord is responsible if:
- The damp is caused by a structural defect in the property
- The property lacks damp proofing
- There is a leak (e.g. in the roof)
- There is inadequate insulation, heating or ventilation causing condensation
The landlord may not be responsible if the damp is caused by condensation due to the lifestyle of the tenant e.g. if the tenant dries clothes inside rooms, uses unventilated tumble driers, does not open windows for ventilation or does not use the heating system sufficiently. In these circumstances tenants should seek advice to establish who is responsible for repairs.
Furniture and furnishings
All furniture and furnishings should meet the fire resistance requirements of the Furnishing (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988. These regulations set levels of fire resistance for all new and second hand furniture in let accommodation. If you require further advice contact Trading Standards.
The Council's involvement
If you feel that items are in need of repair or there are hazards that are damaging your health, you should contact your landlord in the first instance. If your landlord refuses to deal with the repairs or hazard, contact Health and Environmental Services. An officer will inspect the problem and, where necessary, notify the landlord of deficiencies he is responsible for. Unless emergency action is required, or if there is a history of non-compliance, in the first instance we will try and deal with the matter informally. However, if the landlord fails to co-operate and the hazard is sufficiently serious, the Council can take formal action.
This could involve the service of formal notices on the landlord, which are subject to appeal provisions, requiring work to be carried out within a specified timescale. Failure to carry out the work could result in prosecution and/or the Council carrying out the work in default and recovering costs.
Carrying out work in default
In some circumstances the council can carry out works that it has required others to do. This is called works in default, and it is sometimes the quickest and most satisfactory way of making necessary repairs.
In these cases the council will pay the bill but then recover the costs, including staff time in carrying out the works. The exact procedure varies, but in most cases the debt is registered as a charge at the Local Land Registry. This gives the council powers similar to those of a building society or bank: the debt incurs interest and if it remains unpaid the council can sell the property.
How to report a problem
Use our online contact form to report your problem to our Environmental Health team.