When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Hazards in shared housing

If your shared property is a HMO and you are worried about conditions in the property, you can ask the council’s HMO team to check for hazards.

The hazard system only applies to any rented home that is classed as a HMO. If your rented home is not a HMO, different standards apply.

What is a hazard?

When the council inspects a rented home, officers normally check to make sure that the property meets the basic fitness standard and that it is free from serious disrepair. But, if your property is a HMO, council officers must also make sure that it is free from hazards that pose a risk to the health or safety of you and your housemates.

A hazard exists where there is a risk of harm because of a list of specific issues set out in The Houses in Multiple Occupation (Hazards) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019.

What happens if the council finds a hazard?

The council can serve a legal notice on your landlord if officers find a hazard or multiple hazards in the property. This “hazard notice”:

  • Explains what each hazard is and what is causing it (e.g. the hazard is that someone could fall and injure themselves, and this is caused by an uneven floor in the kitchen);
  • Restricts usage of the entirety or of certain areas of the property while the hazard exists;
  • May include details of the work that the landlord must carry out in order to remove the hazard.

If the landlord continues to allow the HMO to be used in a way that is forbidden by the hazard notice, the council can issue a fixed penalty notice, requiring the landlord to pay the council £5,000.

What happens if work has to be carried out to the property?

If the hazard notice includes a work requirement, it will explain what work must be carried out to remove the hazard and will include a deadline for completing this work. The hazard notice will be cancelled if the landlord carries out the work satisfactorily by this deadline.

Leaving the property while work is carried out

You may have to leave the property in order for this work to be carried out. Get advice if you are worried about staying in the property while work is being carried out.

If you wish to return to the property after the work has been completed, you can do this and the terms of your old tenancy will still apply. However, you can also choose to view the tenancy as terminated because you have had to move out of the property.

If the landlord doesn’t carry out the required work, the council may choose to do this. The council can order you to leave the property while this work is going on and it is an offence for you to refuse to leave if the council has served a notice asking you to leave. You could be made to pay a penalty of £500 if you refuse to leave.

Types of hazards

The following could be classed as a hazard if they pose a risk of harm:

  • Damp and mould growth;
  • Excess cold or excess heat;
  • Exposure to asbestos fibres or manufactured mineral fibres;
  • Exposures to chemicals used to treat timber and mould growth;
  • Exposure to carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, smoke;
  • Ingestion of lead;
  • Exposure to radiation;
  • Exposure to uncombusted fuel gas;
  • Exposure to volatile organic compounds;
  • A lack of adequate space for living and sleeping;
  • A lack of adequate security against unauthorised entry;
  • A lack of adequate lighting;
  • Exposure to noise;
  • Poor layout or construction which means the residents can’t keep the HMO clean;
  • Exposure to pests;
  • Inadequate provision for hygienic storage and disposal of household waste;
  • Inadequate provision for storage, preparation and cooking of food;
  • Inadequate provision of facilities for maintaining personal hygiene, sanitation or drainage;
  • Inadequate supply of water;
  • Falls associated with toilets, bathing facilities, level surfaces, stairs, steps, ramps or moving between levels;
  • Exposure to electricity;
  • Exposure to uncontrolled fire and associated smoke;
  • Contact with controlled fire or flames, or contact with hot objects, liquids or vapours;
  • Colliding or getting stuck in doors, windows or other features;
  • The position and mode of operating any amenities, fittings, equipment;
  • Explosions;
  • The collapse of part or all of the property.

Reporting concerns about hazards

If you think there is a hazard in your HMO contact the council’s HMO team urgently.