Housing standards and enforcement
The Public Health and Housing team offers advice and support to private landlords and also offers help to private tenants who are living in properties that do not meet current housing standards.
Housing Standards Civil Sanctions Policy
A staged approach is taken to enforcement wherever possible to ensure solutions are initially sought through advice, cooperation and agreement. However, where this is not successful there will be cases where formal action is necessary and this may ultimately lead to prosecution or other summary action. Prosecution incurs a real cost to the council. Fines are usually small and these are not allocated to the local authority.
The Housing and Planning Act 2016 provides local housing authorities an alternative enforcement option for non-compliance with certain Housing Act 2004 offences rather than taking a prosecution in court. This is with a Civil Penalty Fine. The provisions do not replace the option for prosecution, and it is expected that a prosecution would still be taken in the most serious of cases or for repeat offenders. West Suffolk has a Civil Sanctions Policy which sets out the framework within which decisions will normally be made with regard to issuing civil penalties and to applying for a Rent Repayment Order in relevant cases. Each case will be dealt with on its own merits, having regard to its particular circumstances. This policy is supplementary to the council’s overarching Enforcement Policy. You can also view the Civil Penalty Guidance published by the Government.
All privately rented properties have to obtain a gas safety certificate for appliances on a yearly basis. Please visit Gas Safe Register for further information.
Electrical safety standards
Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 place a legal duty on all landlords to ensure the electrical installation is safe. These new regulations require landlords to have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a person who is qualified and competent, at least every five years. Landlords have to provide a copy of the electrical safety report to their tenants, and to their local authority if requested. The regulations apply to new tenancies from 1 July 2020 and existing tenancies from 1 April 2021.
Portable appliance testing (PAT)
Where a landlord provides an electrical appliance as part of a tenancy, the law expects the appliance will be maintained in a safe condition that will not cause harm to the tenant. Failure to do so could lead to the landlord being sued for negligence. However, the law is silent on how landlords should ensure they do this. As such, unless specifically required as part of a licence condition, portable appliance testing is always best practice for landlords but it is not a legal requirement.
Guidance on electrical sockets
It is important that number of electrical sockets provided in a property is suitable for the number of occupants. Please see Electrical Safety First - Guidance on minimum provision of electrical socket-outlets in the home for further information.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
New regulation require private sector landlords to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties or face a fine of up to £5,000. Visit The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 for more information.
Houses in multiple occupancy (HMO)
Information and advice can be found in our Houses in multiple occupation section.
If you rent a home you have a basic right to repairs and both you and your landlord have specific responsibilities. Further details can be found by clicking on the links below:
The Homes (Fitness for Habitation) Act 2018
If necessary repairs are not undertaken you may be open to action by the tenant under The Homes (Fitness for Habitation) Act 2018 which amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, adding implied terms to tenancy agreements concerning the condition of the let property.
The implied terms give the tenant the right to bring a claim for any failure of the landlord to keep the property fit for habitation. The property must be fit at the start of the lease and remain fit during the term of the lease.
The tenant can bring a claim in the county court. The court can order works to be completed and may award a damages payment to the tenant.
Local authorities are still be able to use their enforcement powers if a tenant in the private rented sector seeks redress under the act.
Are there hazards in your privately rented home?
A home should be a safe and healthy environment for everyone. A hazard is something that could cause harm to the health and/or safety of a resident or their visitor.
Hazards within the home are assessed using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) as set out by the Housing Act 2004. There are 29 hazards (the seven hazards under pollutants have been combined for convenience) that are assessed under HHSRS. If a hazard presents a severe threat to the health and safety of an occupant it is known as a category 1 hazard. A less serious hazard is known as a category 2 hazard.
Who is responsible and how should I take action?
Except in a few circumstances, most major and structural repairs will be the responsibility of your landlord.
If you believe there is a hazard within your home, you should contact your landlord to try to resolve the issue.
If you have given your landlord what you consider to be a fair and reasonable period of time to investigate and complete any necessary works but no progress has been made (that is 28 days unless it is an emergency situation), you can contact the Public Health and Housing team for advice or to arrange a HHSRS inspection.
If the investigating officer finds any category 1 hazards in your home, they have a legal responsibility to take further action. If they find a category 2 hazard, they can decide whether it is appropriate to take action or not.
It is usual for the officer to try to deal with the situation informally first, however if the situation is very serious and the landlord will not carry out the required work, the council will consider appropriate enforcement action.
If you are already on a waiting list to be re-housed by the council, please be aware that the HHSRS inspection has no influence on your place in the list. It is a tool to help you in your current property, not a fast track system for rehousing.
Minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES)
All landlords should be aware that the Government introduced regulations to make it unlawful to rent out domestic properties with the worst energy rating (F or G), unless a legitimate exemption has been registered. For more information visit our Minimum energy efficiency standards page.