What If My Rental Home Is Unfit To Live In?

Picture of a run down house
Renters' Rights > What If My Rental Home Is Unfit To Live In?
Ben Yarrow
21 February 2024
17 May 2023

Renters, listen up! If you've ever found yourself in a situation where you feel that your rental property isn't fit to live in, this blog post is for you. Maybe you’ve got black mould, damp, draughty windows, or a leaking roof?

We understand that it can be a challenging situation to navigate, especially when you're unsure about your rights and the steps to take. Don't worry - we're here to walk you through the process, using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) as our guide.


Step 1: Understand What Makes a Property Unfit

This is the first and fundamental step in the process. You must be aware of the various factors that can render a property unfit for habitation. These could include:

  • Damp and mould growth: These can lead to respiratory problems and allergies. Check for black spots on walls, ceilings, and around windows.
  • Excessive cold: If your home can't be effectively heated, it could lead to a variety of health issues.
  • Lack of ventilation: Proper ventilation helps maintain indoor air quality. Check for windows that don't open or lack of extractor fans in bathrooms.
  • Faulty gas or electrical installations: These can pose significant safety risks, including fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Step 2: Know Your Rights

As a tenant, you have specific rights under UK law:

  • Right to a safe and healthy home: Your landlord must ensure that the property is safe and free from health hazards.
  • Right to have repairs done: Your landlord is responsible for most repairs.

Remember: you can rate your landlord on Marks Out Of Tenancy

Step 3: Evaluate Your Living Conditions

Use the HHSRS as a guide to identify potential hazards in your home. If you identify any Category 1 hazards (i.e., those posing a serious and immediate risk), make a note of them and take photos if possible.

Step 4: Approach Your Landlord

When addressing your landlord, it's essential to:

  • Write a formal letter or email: Outline the problems you've identified, preferably with photographic evidence, and request that they carry out necessary repairs.
  • Give them reasonable time to respond: Typically, 14 days is considered reasonable.

Read guidance on approaching your landlord

Step 5: Involve the Local Authority

If your landlord is unresponsive or refuses to carry out necessary repairs:

  • Contact your local council's housing department: Explain the situation and provide them with any evidence you have.
  • Request an HHSRS assessment: They'll be able to assess the property and take any necessary action against your landlord.

Step 6: Understand the Powers of Local Authorities

Local authorities have many enforcement powers -  they can:

  • Issue an improvement notice: This compels your landlord to carry out specific repairs or improvements.
  • Carry out emergency remedial action: In urgent situations, the council can step in to carry out the work and bill the landlord.
  • Prohibit use of the property: In extreme cases, they can prevent the property from being rented until it's made safe.

Step 7: Understand the Health Impacts

Physical health: Unfit housing can lead to respiratory problems, allergies, and increased risk of accidents.
Mental health: The stress of living in poor conditions can lead to anxiety and depression.

Step 8: Don't Suffer in Silence

If you're still having issues:

  • Contact a housing charity like Shelter: They can provide advice and support.
  • Consult with Citizens Advice: They can help you understand your rights and next steps.

Remember, living in an unfit property is not only uncomfortable—it's a serious risk to your health and well-being. Always take action if you're in this situation.