Renting a safe home
A guide for tenants
March 2015
Department for Communities and Local Government
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March 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4098-4540-9
Renting a safe home
A guide for tenants
All homes need to meet certain standards to ensure that they do not represent a risk to
health and safety. This guide has been produced for tenants to identify hazards or health
risks, to work out whether a property is safe and to explain what to do if it’s not.
Landlords should provide tenants with a property that provides a safe and healthy
environment to live in. That means regularly reviewing the condition of the property and
carrying out repairs when needed. The Government’s ‘How to Rent’ Guide aims to help
tenants and landlords in the private rented sector understand their rights and
responsibilities.
The majority of landlords provide decent well maintained homes and most tenants are
happy with the service they receive from their landlord. However, all properties contain
things, such as stairs and electrical outlets, which are potentially hazardous. Whilst it is not
possible to live in a property that is totally free of potential hazards, the risk they may
become actual hazards should always be minimised.
This guide will help you know what to look out for in the property you are renting to ensure
that it is safe to live in, and won’t affect your health or that of your family. It also explains
your landlord’s obligations and what you can do if the landlord does not comply.
You will also find this guide helpful if you are looking for a place to live as it should help
you identify any hazards in the property that might impact on your or your family’s health
and safety. You can always ask the landlord to remove or minimise the hazard before you
agree to take up the tenancy.
Hazards to health and safety
The following explains some of the most common hazards found in property and how you,
as the tenant, might identify them. A full list of hazards is given at the end of the Guide.
Whilst these are not common, if they are present in the property and remain unchecked
they could affect your health. If you are fit and healthy the likelihood of these affecting you
might be small, but they could have more affect those who are more vulnerable such as
young children and the elderly.
Living Environment
Damp and mould can affect your health. It can cause dust mites, dampness and/or high
humidity. If not tackled they can cause respiratory problems, respiratory infections,
allergies or asthma. It can also affect the immune system particularly in young children.
Where a home is consistently too cold, this is called Excess Cold which can lead to flu,
pneumonia and bronchitis; heart attacks or strokes, hypothermia and even death. A cold
home is one that cannot be economically maintained at temperatures of between 18°C to
21°C. Likewise, Excess Heat can be a risk to health where a property is excessively hot.
This has the potential to cause dehydration, stroke and heart attacks, breathing difficulties
and infections. This is more likely to affect the elderly.
The following checks should give a good indication if there is a problem.

Look out for damp patches on walls and ceilings, mould, peeling wallpaper
and condensation on windows. Does the property smell musty?

Ask for a demonstration of the central heating. Is it working properly and do
the heating controls work?

If there is no central heating is there an alternative type of adequate heating?
Check the property is well ventilated, do the windows open?
Pollutants
Asbestos was commonly used in building materials in the 1950s and 1960s as a fire
retardant. Materials containing asbestos are generally safe if they are in good condition but
it they are damaged or broken they can release fibres and dust into the air that can cause
pleural disease; lung cancer or mesothelioma. Your landlord should seek professional
advice on its removal. Pesticides and other chemicals used to treat timber mould growth
and pests can cause breathing difficulties and skin diseases. Carbon Monoxide and
other gases can be extremely toxic and cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, bronchitis
and breathless and asphyxiation. Lead from paint or water/waste pipes has the potential to
cause nervous disorders, mental health and behavioural problems in children.
In certain parts of the country, there is a risk to health from exposure from Radon Gas and
you can find more details here www.ukradon.org.
Gas from cookers or heaters escaping into the atmosphere in the property can cause
suffocation and explosion. Dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde can be found in
a variety of materials around the home, such as air fresheners and can be unpredictable at
room temperature. They can cause allergies; irritation; headaches; nausea; dizziness and
drowsiness.
The following checks should give a good indication if there is a problem:

Are the rooms well ventilated? Ask for a carbon monoxide alarm to be
installed.

Are the appliances properly installed and have they been maintained?

Ask to see the Gas Safety Certificate. If there are gas appliances in the
property, the landlord has to have an annual gas safety check carried out by a
Gas Safe registered engineer.
Space, Security, Light and Noise
There is a risk to health from infections, accidents and the spread of contagious diseases
caused by Crowding and Inadequate Space. In addition to the number of occupants,
factors to consider when deciding whether there is adequate space include the size of
living rooms, kitchens and other recreational space. There should be adequate living area
for sleeping and normal household life.
The fear caused by the risk of Entry by intruders where the property is not secured
against unauthorised or unwanted entry can cause stress, and anguish.
The lack of adequate Lighting can cause depression, eyestrain and vitamin D deficiency.
The risk to health from Noise caused by inadequate sound insulation that allows
penetration of excessive levels of noise can cause sleep disturbance; poor concentration,
headaches and anxiety.
The following checks should give a good indication if there is a problem:

Walk through the property, is there enough room for beds and furniture? Is there
adequate light?

Do the doors and windows shut properly? Check windows for locks and the front
door for break-in signs.

If renting a flat or terrace, what do the neighbouring properties look like? Their
problems can quickly become yours. Listen for noise from neighbours and
roads. If you can, try to get a second viewing at a different time of day.
Hygiene, sanitation and water supply
Issues with Hygiene, pests and refuse can lead to stomach upsets, infection and
diseases, asthma and allergies. The property should be free from cracks, holes or voids
that would allow the entry or shelter of pests. There should be adequate provision for the
storage of rubbish.
There is also a risk to health from lack of space for personal washing and for clothes
washing and drying facilities, including drainage. The property should have an adequate
water supply and drinking water should be supplied from the mains.
The following checks should give a good indication that there may be a problem:

Check the plumbing. Flush toilets and turn taps on. Check cupboards
underneath sinks are dry. Check water pressure and that the water gets hot.

In the kitchen, pretend to prepare a meal. Is there enough room? If white goods
are included, check they're working. Look out for mice droppings and ask about
refuse collection especially in any shared communal areas.
Accidents
Risk associated from trips and Falling is one of the most common hazards. These can be
associated with baths and showers, trip hazards, stairs and low balconies and windows.
Falls can cause physical injuries, cuts and bruising, fractures or brain and head injuries.
Elderly people are more vulnerable to these hazards.
Electrical hazards caused by faulty wiring and old sockets can lead to shocks, burns and
even death. Electrical installations should be safe and in a good state of repair.
Fire in the home can lead to burns and the risk of being overcome by smoke or gas and in
serious cases death. Cookers, heaters and other electrical appliances should be situated
away from flammable materials and ideally in the middle rather than the end of kitchen
units. They should also be regularly maintained and tested. This will also reduce the risk
caused by Flames, hot surfaces etc. You should be particularly concerned about this if
you have children under 5 years.
The following checks should give a good indication if there is a problem

Are the floors and paths in good repair and free from trip hazards? Do the stairs
have an even tread? Can windows be firmly secured? Do balconies have a
safety rail? Does the bath have a slip resistant surface?

Turn lights on and off, especially with older switches. Check that plug sockets
are not loose.

Is the cooker located in a safe position? Is there a fire safety blanket in the
kitchen? Is there a working smoke detector? How easy would it be to escape in
the event of a fire?
Structural
In cases where the property has been badly maintained this can lead to Collision and
entrapment, Explosions and Structural collapse. There is a risk to health physical injury
caused by trapping body parts in windows and doors etc and striking/colliding with
windows and doors, and from a blast of debris, or collapse of a building caused by gas or
water vapour.
Inappropriate positioning of amenities presents a potential risk of strains and sprains
amenities and space not being appropriately positioned i.e. bath, sinks, worktops and
windows should be properly sited.
The following checks should give a good indication if there is a problem:

Does the roof look in a good state of repair, are there lose tiles or leaking
gutters?
What to do if you identify hazards?
If you are living in the property and have concerns about its condition you should first
contact the landlord or the managing agent to get it put right. Don’t be frightened about
raising your concerns. You have the right to live in a safe and secure home. In almost all
tenancies, the landlord is by law required to keep the property in a good state of repair
provided the tenant has not caused the damage. If the landlord does not carry out the
necessary repairs you can take action, including where you believe a hazard has arisen by
reporting the matter to the environmental health department of your local council.
If the council gets involved it will normally carry out an inspection to identify what hazards
exist. They will look at the health risks related to the hazards listed below and if they find
poor conditions that are a serious risk to your, or your family’s health and safety, they have
a duty to take action to eliminate or reduce the hazard. The council does not have to take
action in every case – they will make an assessment based on the hazard criteria set out
at the end of this guidance document. The local authority will not charge you for this
service.
Repairing obligations
The following are the minimum repairing obligations implied into all private sector
tenancies granted for seven years or less, including weekly and monthly tenancies. Even if
your tenancy agreement is silent about repairs or says something different this cannot
override the law.
Although hazards may result because a property is in need of repair, in general, the
council cannot directly get involved to require a landlord to comply with the repairing
obligations. You will need to go to the county court for that and to make any claim against
the landlord for disrepair. You should note the landlord is not required to carry out repairs
where you or your family have caused the damage. However, a landlord has a right to
carry out repairs and you must allow access. You cannot be charged for the repairs unless
you caused the damage.
According to Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the landlord is always
responsible for repairs to:






the property’s structure and exterior
basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings including pipes and drains
heating and hot water
gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
electrical wiring
any damage they cause by attempting repairs
The landlord is usually responsible for repairing common areas, eg staircases in blocks of
flats but the tenancy agreement should confirm this.
The Landlord does not have to repair damage the tenant has caused, eg if water leaks into
another flat from an overflowing bath, the tenant is responsible for paying for the repairs.
Tenants are responsible for paying to put right any damage caused by their family and
friends.
The full list of hazards assessed during an inspection are:
1. Damp and mould
2. Excess cold
3. Excess heat
4. Asbestos
5. Biocides
6. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide
7. Lead
8. Radiation
9. Uncombusted fuel gas
10. Volatile organic compounds
11. Crowding and space
12. Entry by intruders
13. Lighting
14. Noise
15. Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse
16. Food safety
17. Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage
18. Water supply
19. Falls associated with baths
20. Falls on level surfaces
21. Falls associated with stairs and steps
22. Falls between levels
23. Electrical hazards
24. Fire
25. Hot surfaces and materials
26. Collision and entrapment
27. Explosions
28. Position and operation of amenities etc.
29. Structural collapse and falling elements
Additional Information
This guidance is not exhaustive and you should always seek advice on any specific
situation that arises. f you are interested in finding out more about renting in the private
sector then you can find additional information at the following links. Government accepts
no responsibility for the content of external sites.
Shelter
Chartered Institute of Enviromental Health
Accreditaion Network UK
Citizens Advice Bureau
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