All housing in Northern Ireland has to pass a basic fitness standard.
What is the basic standard for housing in Northern Ireland?
The fitness standard for housing says that a property has to
- be structurally stable
- be free from serious disrepair
- be free from dampness which could damage your health
- have adequate provision for lighting, heating and ventilation
- have an adequate piped supply of wholesome water
- have enough space and facilities to prepare and cook food, including a sink
- have a suitably located toilet for the exclusive use of the occupants
- have either a bath or shower with hot and cold water, and
- have effective, working drains.
Your local council's environmental health team decides if your home passes this standard.
Getting help with bad housing
You can ask the council to inspect your home if there are problems and your landlord is not fixing these.
Contact your local council's environmental health department. Ask them for a fitness inspection.
You should give your landlord a chance to fix any problems in your home before you involve the council.
How can the council help?
The council may ask you to complete a form. You'll need to write down why you think the property is unfit.
The council will inspect the property if it seems like there are serious problems. They'll write to you and to the landlord to explain when the inspection will happen.
Council officers will visit your home. They should check over the whole property, inside and out.
What happens after a fitness inspection?
There are a few things that could happen after a fitness inspection. The council can decide that
- there are no serious issues in the property,
- the property has some problems but is still fit, or
- the property is unfit.
The council will usually contact the landlord to get them to agree to fix any issues. If the landlord won't do that, the council can issue different legal notices. These are
- a notice of refusal to issue a certificate of fitness
- a notice of unfitness, and
- a notice of disrepair.
These notices will include
- a list of work that the landlord has to do in the property, and
- a deadline for doing this work.
You'll get a copy of any notice the council issues to your landlord.
What happens if the landlord doesn't do the work in the notice?
Contact the council again if the landlord does not do the required work by the deadline in the notice.
The council can do the work itself and then claim the costs back from the landlord. But, this is unusual.
Get advice if your landlord is refusing to do work ordered by the council.
Paying rent when your property is in bad condition
Tenants sometimes ask us if they can get a reduction in rent if they're living in bad housing. You can negotiate with your landlord for a reduction in your rent, but they don't have to agree to this.
Some properties can fall under rent control if they are unfit. Rent control means that the rent officer for Northern Ireland decides how much rent you have to pay to the landlord.
Your home might fall under rent control if it was built before 1945 and
- the council has issued a notice of unfitness, or
- the council has issued a notice of refusal to issue a certificate of fitness.
Rent control ends once the landlord gets a certificate of fitness.
Contact our advisers if you're worried about conditions in your rented home.