Landlords of certain properties must apply for a certificate of fitness. Failing to apply for this certificate when it is necessary is an offence. If your property needs this certificate, you should contact your local Environmental Health Office and request that an Environmental Health Officer carries out a fitness inspection.
Properties requiring a certificate of fitness
You may need to apply for a certificate of fitness for your property if it was built before 1956, unless the property can be classed as a "prescribed dwelling". If any of the following apply to the property, it is a prescribed dwelling and does not require a certificate of fitness.
- The property was constructed between 1 January 1945 and 6 November 1956
- The property has been subject to a renovation grant, paid by the Housing Executive within the past 10 years
- The property has been subject to a HMO grant, paid by the Housing Executive, within the past 10 years
- The property is a registered HMO
- The property was previously let as a protected tenancy which was subject to a regulated rent certificate issued within the past ten years.
Your local council should be able to tell you a regulated rent certificate was issued against the property in the last 10 years. The Housing Executive should be able to inform you whether a grant has been issued against the property and whether it has been registered as a HMO. Check your property deeds to find out when the property was built.
If your property falls into any of the above categories, you will not need to apply for a certificate of fitness.
If the property does need a certificate of fitness, you will need to apply for a fitness inspection. Failure to apply for a fitness inspection within 28 days of letting a property could result in prosecution.
Applying for a fitness certificate
Contact the Environmental Health Department of your local council to request a fitness inspection. A fee of £50 will be charged for the initial inspection. You will have to complete an application form. This fee will not be refunded if it turns out your property does not require a Certificate of Fitness, so be sure to check your property's particulars against the exemptions above.
The Environmental Health Officer (EHO) who carries out the inspection will assess the property to ensure that it meets the Fitness Standard and is fit for human habitation. If the property passes the inspection you will receive a Certificate of Fitness. The council will also send a copy of the certificate to the tenant of the property, the Rent Officer for Northern Ireland and the Housing Executive.
Failing the fitness inspection
If the property does not pass the fitness inspection you will be issued with a Notice of Refusal of a Certificate of Fitness. This will trigger rent control on the property and the amount of rent that you can charge will be restricted. The Rent Officer for Northern Ireland will determine how much rent can be charged on the property. You will only be able to increase the rent past the Rent Officer's limit by carrying out the necessary repairs to the property and having the property re-inspected. A fee of £100 will be payable for the re-inspection.
The council's notice should include the reasons that the property did not pass the inspection and a schedule of works that must be carried out to bring the property up to standard. The council will also send a copy of this notice to any tenants in the property, the Rent Officer for Northern Ireland and the Housing Executive.
You can appeal the council's decision to issue a Notice of Refusal in the county court. Your must lodge your appeal within 21 days of the notice being served. If the court allows your appeal, it will order the council to issue a certificate of fitness.
If a Notice of Refusal of a Certificate of Fitness is served on a property, the property becomes subject to rent control. In Northern Ireland, the Rent Officer sets rents for properties which are deemed not to meet the set standard. The amount of rent which can be collected on these types of properties is dependent on the conditions of the property.
If you disagree with a decision made by the Rent Officer you can make an appeal to the Rent Assessment Committee. Protected tenants in receipt of housing benefit who live in a rent controlled property will only get £1 a week housing benefit until the Rent Officer determines that the property now meets the fitness standard and allows you to charge a market rent on the property again.