How to identify a property which is not deemed as habitable ↑
To help answer this question, I’ll go through the risks I’ve previously talked about and explain each one in some detail and show examples.
Then I will go through some case studies for properties which have had stamp duty refunds. These case studies are useful for anyone purchasing a property, because they show what condition the property needs to be in in order to classified as ‘non-residential’ by HMRC.
The building has been neglected and is in a bad condition ↑
Neglected property in bad condition can have structural issues, pests, damp, outdated systems, aesthetic problems, and impact habitability.
A property that is neglected and in bad condition refers to a property that is not properly maintained, and has been allowed to fall into disrepair. Such properties may have structural issues, such as leaks, cracks, and rot, as well as issues with pests and vermin infestations. They may also have problems with damp, mould, and poor insulation, which can lead to health hazards and increased energy costs.
Additionally, they may have outdated or non-functional electrical, plumbing, and heating systems, as well as aesthetic issues, such as peeling paint, broken or missing fixtures, and overgrown gardens or yards. Overall, a property in a neglected and bad condition may be uninhabitable, unsanitary, and unsafe for inhabitants.
“Neglected” and “bad condition” are subjective terms that can be difficult to define. However, examples from past case studies can provide insight into what properties have been deemed as such by HMRC. These examples can serve as a guide for understanding what may be considered a neglected or poorly maintained property.
A property can show signs of neglect or disrepair in a variety of ways, such as:
- Peeling paint or wallpaper, water stains on walls or ceilings, and/or mould growth, indicating a lack of maintenance and repairs to address water leaks.
- Cracked or broken windows, missing panes, or broken window seals, indicating a lack of maintenance and repairs to address weather-proofing issues.
- Damaged or missing roof tiles, indicating a lack of maintenance and repairs to address roofing issues.
- Overgrown or uncared for gardens, indicating a lack of maintenance and upkeep of the exterior of the property.
- Damp or musty odours, indicating a lack of maintenance and repairs to address moisture and ventilation issues.
- Broken or missing fixtures and fittings, such as door handles, light switches, and plug sockets, indicating a lack of maintenance and repairs to address functional issues.
- Unsafe or outdated electrical wiring, indicating a lack of maintenance and repairs to address safety issues.
- Structural issues, such as cracks in walls or ceilings, indicating a lack of maintenance and repairs to address structural integrity of the property.
- Poorly maintained or clogged drains, indicating a lack of maintenance and repairs to address drainage issues.
- Pest infestations, indicating a lack of maintenance and repairs to address sanitation issues. These are just a few examples, but it’s important to note that a property can be neglected or in bad condition in a variety of ways, and it’s important to consider all factors when determining the condition of the property.
In summary: A property in poor condition and neglected would affect habitability.
The building is unstable ↑
Checklist question: Does the property suffer from settlement or subsidence?
If a building is unstable, it suffers from subsidence.
The royal institution of chartered surveyors (RICS) defines subsidence as “The gradual settling or sudden sinking of the ground on which a building stands.” this can be caused by a variety of factors, including changes in moisture levels in the soil, the extraction of underground resources, and the natural compaction of soil over time.
Subsidence can lead to structural damage to the building and can also cause cracking in walls, floors and ceilings. It’s important to note that subsidence is different from settlement, which occurs when the structure of the building itself is collapsing or sinking due to poor construction or poor soil compaction. Subsidence can be identified by visual signs such as cracks or door frames that are no longer square or level.
As a general rule, we always avoid properties with subsidence. This is because subsidence usually occurs because foundations not adequate, which means foundations would have to be underpinned. And that leads to huge risks of collapse. Here’s a video of how underpinning works: Youtube.com/watch?v=alOakVzxxJk
In summary: Subsidence and serious property settlement affects the safety of inhabitants and so would affect habitability.
There is a serious problem with damp ↑
Checklist question: Is there a serious problem with damp?
Damp in buildings: 2 types (water ingress, rising), causes damage, mould growth.
Broadly, there are 2 types of damp:
Water ingress damp is caused by water entering the building from the outside. This can happen due to a variety of reasons such as a leaking roof, faulty gutters, or a lack of weather-proofing. Water ingress can lead to damage to walls, ceilings, and floors and can also lead to the growth of mould.
Rising damp, on the other hand, is caused by water rising up through the walls of the building from the ground. This is typically caused by a failure of the damp-proof course (DPC) which is a barrier usually made of plastic or bitumen that is installed in the walls of the building to prevent moisture from the ground rising up into the walls. Rising damp can lead to damage to walls, peeling wallpaper, and the growth of mould. Rising damp can be more difficult to diagnose and may require the use of a damp meter to confirm its presence.
To treat water ingress, it’s a case of identifying the source of the leak, typically a leaking gutter, leaking water pipe, water seeping in through brickwork or window frames and door frames.
In summary: Serious damp effects health and so would affect habitability.
It has an unsafe layout ↑
Checklist question: Does the property have a layout which could cause a health or safety issue?
“Unsafe” in housing defined by H&S regs. Lack of egress, narrow stairs, small rooms, lack of ventilation/light, mould/damp, poor insulation, inadequate appliance space can all make a property unsafe.
It’s important to define ‘unsafe’. In this case it would be defined under the housing health and safety regulations as described here: PDF
Examples which would make a floor plan/layout unsafe would be:
- Lack of adequate means of egress, such as a second means of escape in case of fire. This is frequently highlighted by survey reports showing poor means of secondary escape in a property through upstairs windows.
- Narrow or winding staircases that can be difficult to navigate in an emergency. This is relatively uncommon.
- Rooms or spaces that are too small to be functional or comfortably used. We would avoid properties such as this, because it’s expensive and not necessarily economically unviable to a larger property.
- Rooms or spaces that are not properly ventilated or that do not have access to natural light. We see a number of properties which have inadequate ventilation. Fortunately most property has a good natural light. But if a property didn’t have adequate natural light, it would probably be very difficult to change this, therefore we wouldn’t consider these kinds of property.
- Rooms or spaces that are not properly ventilated or that do not have access to natural light, this can lead to mold and dampness and can create unhealthy living conditions. This is relatively common where properties are not adequately ventilated and there is excessive condensation and mould.
- Rooms or spaces that are not properly insulated this can lead to heat loss and increase energy consumption. Properties with an epc of e could be classified as inadequately insulated.
- Rooms or spaces that are not designed to accommodate the use of certain appliances or equipment, such as a kitchen that is not properly ventilated or that does not have enough counter space, this can create health and safety hazards and make it difficult to cook or clean. This is commonplace with small terraced houses
There’s not enough natural light ↑
Checklist question: Do the kitchen, living rooms or bedrooms not have enough natural light?
Rooms in UK need min. daylight factor of 1% (2% of floor area) & min. half the floor area (1%) to be considered safe, functional and habitable.
In the united kingdom, the criteria for determining this minimum level of daylight is based on the size and use of the room. Typically, the criteria used to measure this is the “Daylight factor” which is the ratio of the amount of natural light that enters a room to the amount that would enter if there were an unobstructed view of the sky. Generally, for most habitable rooms, the minimum daylight factor is considered to be at least 1% of the floor area should have a daylight factor of at least 2%, and at least half of the floor area should have a daylight factor of at least 1%.
This means that at least 1% of the floor area of the room should receive at least 2% of the natural light that would be available if the room had a clear view of the sky, and at least half of the floor area should receive at least 1% of the natural light. This criteria is intended to ensure that the room has enough natural light to be used comfortably and safely, and it helps to prevent problems such as mould and mildew.
Sidenote: These are complicated criteria. And in my experience, it’s extremely unusual to find rooms in a property which do not have enough natural light. Examples of how rooms might not have enough natural light:
- Windows are small or blocked by overgrown vegetation outside
- Rooms are located on the north side of the building with limited access to sunlight
- Rooms are located in the basement with limited access to natural light
- The property has a poor layout with little consideration for natural light, such as a lack of skylights or other forms of artificial lighting
- Rooms are located in a high-density urban area with limited access to natural light due to surrounding buildings blocking sunlight.
In summary: Poor lighting conditions in a property would make it unpleasant to live in and would affect habitability
There’s not enough ventilation ↑
Checklist question: do the kitchen, living rooms or bedrooms not have enough ventilation?
Adequate ventilation is necessary for habitability, based on room size and usage. Ventilation must be provided by openable windows or other means, with minimum area of 5% of floor or 0.33m². Poor ventilation leads to condensation and high CO2, affecting habitability.
- The level of ventilation required is based on the size of the room and the type of use. For example, a kitchen should have an extractor fan or an openable window.
- Building regulations also require that all habitable rooms have an openable window, or other means of ventilation, that can be used to provide fresh air. The minimum area of the window opening should be at least 5% of the floor area of the room, or 0.33m² whichever is the greater.
- If a kitchen doesn’t have mechanical ventilation, and/or windows can’t be opened easily then you could describe the room as having inadequate ventilation.
- If a bedroom doesn’t have a window which can open and there is no ventilation brick in the wall, then it would also have inadequate ventilation.
In summary: Bad ventilation would cause condensation and high levels of carbon dioxide and so would affect habitability
Problem with the supply of hot and cold water ↑
Inadequate hot water supply due to old boilers, low flow rate, faulty cylinder, leaks, lack of insulation or maintenance affect habitability
Checklist question: Does the property have adequate hot and/or water provision?
Properties may have inadequate hot water supply due to old, inefficient boilers, low flow rate, faulty hot water cylinder, leaks, lack of insulation or lack of maintenance. This affects habitability.
It’s extremely rare to find a property which doesn’t have running water, but some derelict properties will not have mains water. It’s more commonplace for properties to have an inadequate means of providing hot water.
- A property that is using an old, inefficient boiler that is not able to heat water to a sufficient temperature.
- A property that has a low flow rate on its hot water system, which means that hot water is not able to flow quickly enough to reach all parts of the property.
- A property that has a faulty hot water cylinder or storage tank that is not able to keep hot water at a consistent temperature.
- A property that has leaks in the hot water system, which causes hot water to be lost before it reaches the taps.
- A property that has a lack of insulation on the hot water pipes, which causes heat to be lost and hot water to cool down before it reaches the taps.
- A property that has a lack of regular maintenance on the hot water system, which can lead to build-up of sediment and rust, reducing the efficiency of the system and leading to inadequate hot water supply.
In summary: Having hot water is a basic necessity and its absence would affect habitability.
Problems with the drainage or the lavatories ↑
Adequate sanitary facilities, including proper drainage and functioning lavatories, are essential for habitability. Issues can include blocked pipes, leaks, faulty systems, poor ventilation, outdated plumbing, and lack of maintenance.
It’s very unusual for properties to have issues with drainage or lavatories. If these problems occur it is usually due to:
- Blocked or clogged drainage pipes leading to slow or no flow of waste water.
- Leaking or overflowing toilets or sinks.
- Septic tank or sewage system that is not functioning properly.
- Lack of proper ventilation in the bathroom leading to damp and mould.
- Cracked or broken lavatory bowls or cisterns causing leaks or flooding.
- Absence of proper waste water management systems like soakaways, leading to standing water in the property.
- Old and outdated plumbing systems that are not able to handle the current water usage in the property.
- Poor maintenance of the drainage or sewage system, leading to build-up of debris and blockages.
- Lack of proper access for maintenance or repair of the drainage or sewage system.
- No provision for grey water treatment, leading to contamination of ground water.
In summary: a residential property must have adequate sanitary facilities. Their absence would would affect habitability.
It’s difficult to prepare and cook food or wash up ↑
Checklist question: are kitchen facilities inadequate?
Inadequate kitchen facilities, including lack of appliances, water, space, electrical outlets, lighting, ventilation and storage, affect habitability.
If a property has a kitchen which:
- Lack of functional kitchen appliances, such as a stove or oven.
- No running water or malfunctioning sink in the kitchen.
- Insufficient counter space or storage for food preparation.
- No functional or accessible electrical outlets for small appliances.
- Poor lighting in the kitchen making it difficult to see while preparing food.
- Pest infestation in the kitchen, making it unhygienic to prepare food.
- Lack of space for storing and preparing food, such as a pantry.
- Damaged or missing kitchen cabinetry and countertops.
- Lack of ventilation in the kitchen making it impossible to cook without smoke and odours filling the home.
- No access to a refrigerator to store food properly.
In summary: Inadequate kitchen facilities would affect habitability.
Damp and mould growth ↑
Checklist question: is there black mould in the property? Are damp patches larger than one square meter in size?
Black mould can cause respiratory issues, skin irritations, and other health problems, and can grow in hidden areas. It is characterized by dark patches, musty odours, and is often caused by water damage. Mould affects habitability and is a serious health hazard.
Black mould, also known as stachybotrys chartarum, is a type of fungus that can grow in damp areas of buildings. It is considered to be dangerous because it can produce toxic substances called mycotoxins, which can have negative health effects on humans and animals.
Breathing in mould spores can cause allergic reactions, including symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. In some people, mould exposure can also cause more serious respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and in rare cases, hypersensitivity pneumonitis. in addition to respiratory issues, exposure to black mould can also cause neurological symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and concentration difficulties.
It can also aggravate existing health conditions such as allergies, asthma and other respiratory issues. Black mould can also be dangerous for pets and other animals. It can cause respiratory issues, skin irritations, and other health problems. It’s important to note that black mould can grow in hidden areas, such as behind walls or under floors and can be difficult to detect without proper inspection.
- Visible growth: Black mould is often characterized by dark, fuzzy or slimy patches on walls, ceilings or floors. These patches can vary in size and may appear in clusters.
- Musty odours: A strong musty or damp smell can indicate the presence of black mould. This odour is often strongest in damp or humid areas, such as bathrooms or basements.
- Allergies or respiratory issues: Long-term exposure to black mould can cause symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. If you have recently noticed these symptoms and can’t find a cause, it’s worth checking for mould.
- Water damage: Black mould often grows in areas that have been exposed to water or dampness. Check for signs of water damage such as water stains, peeling paint, or warping wood.
- Inspecting inside walls: in some cases, you might not be able to see the black mould from the surface, but you can detect it by opening up a wall or ceiling.
In summary: Mould is a serious health hazard and would affect habitability.
Excess cold ↑
Checklist question: Is the property’s energy performance certificate (EPC) rating within the range of E to G?
A property should have EPC rating of D or higher, with efficient insulation, heating, and ventilation to be considered habitable.
Government guidelines suggest that if a property cannot be reasonably heated to 18° or above, it would therefore be excessively cold. Ref:
UK gov guidance
The UK government does not have a specific guideline for determining a “Reasonable cost” for heating a home. However, it is arguable that a property with an energy performance certificate (Epc) rating of e or lower would be considered as suffering from excess cold and therefore uninhabitable. An EPC certificate is a report that shows a property’s energy efficiency and provides a rating from A (very efficient) to G (inefficient).
- Insufficient insulation in the walls, floors, or roof, leading to heat loss and drafts.
- Poorly sealed windows and doors, allowing cold air to enter the property.
- Lack of double glazing, causing heat loss through the windows.
- An inefficient heating system that is not able to heat the property effectively.
- Blockages or issues with the chimney or flue, preventing proper ventilation.
- A lack of thermal curtains or blinds, which can help to retain heat inside the property.
- A lack of internal walls or partitions, which can create drafts and cold spots.
- A lack of or poor quality carpets or rugs, which can help to insulate floors and retain heat.
- A lack of radiators or heated towel rails, which can help to radiate heat throughout the property.
- A lack of proper ventilation and air circulation, which can cause dampness and mold growth.
- A lack of adequate external weather protection such as roofing, gutters, and flashing which can prevent water ingress to the property.
In summary: A property must the heated to at least 18° in order to be habitable.
Excess heat ↑
Checklist question: is the property prone to becoming excessively hot inside in hot weather?
A property prone to excessive heat may have issues such as top floor location, limited window openings, lack of shading, urban location, energy efficiency, restricted window opening, which can affect habitability.
Homes more prone to overheating:
- Flats on the top floor.
- Flats with opening windows on just one side.
- Little shading (external or internal).
- Large unshaded east, west or south-facing windows.
- Located in a densely built-up urban area with little green space nearby.
- Modern, very airtight, highly insulated or energy-efficient homes.
- Restricted opening of windows (for example, safety catch installed or unable to open them due to noise, pollution or fear of crime).
Ref government guidelines
In summary: A property which heats to over 35° in summer would affect habitability.
Asbestos and manufactured metal fibres ↑
Checklist question: Was the property last modernised before 1980?
Asbestos was widely used in UK before 1980, commonly in insulation, roofing, flooring, and textured coatings. Can lead to asbestosis and increased cancer risk if inhaled. Hidden in walls, floors, etc. Professional inspection recommended. Asbestos affects habitability if present.
Asbestos is a term used to describe several naturally occurring minerals that have been crystallized into fibres. These fibres are strong, resistant to heat and chemicals, and do not dissolve in water or evaporate. There are two main groups of asbestos: serpentine, which is commonly referred to as white asbestos, and amphiboles, which includes blue and brown asbestos. Prior to its use being banned, asbestos was widely used in many products, including insulation materials for buildings, boilers, pipes, car brakes, and floor tiles.
The importation, supply, and use of all types of asbestos have been banned in the UK since 1999, with amphibole asbestos being banned since 1985. Amphibole asbestos is considered to be more hazardous than serpentine asbestos. When asbestos is in large pieces and undamaged, it is not considered harmful. However, when damaged, asbestos can release smaller fibres that can be inhaled or swallowed. Breathing in asbestos fibres can lead to a condition called asbestosis, which increases the risk of cancer. Asbestos has been classified as a carcinogen to humans.
In the UK, asbestos was widely used in construction materials prior to the 1980s, therefore it can be found in many older properties. Some of the most common places where asbestos is likely to be found in a property include:
- insulation materials: asbestos was commonly used in insulation materials for walls, floors, and ceilings. It can be found in the form of loose fibres, sprayed-on coatings, or in insulation boards.
- roofing materials: asbestos was commonly used in corrugated and flat roofing materials, as well as in guttering and downpipes.
- flooring materials: asbestos was commonly used in floor tiles, vinyl flooring, and flooring adhesives.
- textured coatings: asbestos was commonly used in textured coatings such as aertex, which was used to finish ceilings and walls.
- boiler and pipe insulation: asbestos was commonly used to insulate boilers, pipes, and ductwork.
- it is also important to note that asbestos can also be found in other unexpected places such as textiles and automotive parts.
It’s important to remember that asbestos is not always visible and it might be found in hidden areas of the property, for example behind walls or under floors. Therefore, it’s important to have the property inspected by a professional asbestos surveyor to determine if asbestos is present and where it is located, before carrying out any work on the property.
In summary: Asbestos is extremely dangerous and if present, it would affect habitability.
Biocides (chemicals that treat mould) ↑
Checklist question: has the black mould in the property been treated with biocide chemical mould removal?
Biocides can be toxic and affect habitability if not handled and applied properly; signs include recent cleaning, warning labels, chemical odour, certification, and blistered or burned mould.
Biocides can be toxic and can pose a health risk to the occupants of the property if they are not handled and applied properly. The chemicals can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation, and in some cases, more serious health problems.
Ref HSE guidance
There are several ways to identify whether biocides have been used to remove mould from a property:
- look for evidence of recent cleaning: if you see areas where the mould has been recently cleaned, such as a freshly painted surface or a surface that has been scrubbed, it may indicate that biocides have been used.
- ask the property owner or previous occupants: the property owner or previous occupants may be able to tell you if biocides were used to remove mould in the property.
- check for warning signs: biocides are often labelled with warning signs such as “Danger” or “Poison” and may have a strong chemical odour. This can indicate that biocides have been used in the property.
- check for professional certifications: a professional mould remediator will be certified or licensed to use biocides, and they will have records of the products they have used.
- inspect the mould: if a mould looks blistered or burned, it could be an indication that biocides have been used.
In summary: if there is continued biocide would affect habitability
Carbon monoxide ↑
Checklist question: does the property have gas heaters and/or a gas hob over 25 years of age and is the property properly ventilated?
Carbon monoxide (CO) can be fatal, check for proper maintenance, ventilation, CO detectors, warning signs, and fuel type to identify CO risk in properties.
Carbon monoxide (co) is an odourless, colourless gas that can be produced by appliances and equipment that burn fuels such as gas, oil, wood, and coal. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal and is a concern in any property that uses these types of fuels. Here are several ways to identify properties at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning:
- look for signs of poor maintenance: appliances and equipment that have not been properly maintained can increase the risk of co poisoning. Signs of poor maintenance include rust, soot, or discoloration around appliances and equipment.
- check for proper ventilation: proper ventilation is crucial in preventing co build-up. Look for signs of blocked vents, missing flue pipes, or other issues that could impede proper ventilation.
- check for co detectors: co detectors can be an important safety feature in any property that uses fuels that can produce co. If a property does not have co detectors, it is at a higher risk of co poisoning.
- look for warning signs: symptoms of co poisoning include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and confusion. If you notice these symptoms in a property, it could be a sign of co poisoning.
- look for the type of fuel used: properties that use fuels such as gas, oil, wood, and coal are at a higher risk of co poisoning as these fuels can release co when they are burned.
In summary: Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal and would affect habitability
Checklist question: was the property modernised within the last 40 years? If there’s been an inspection, are the main water pipes made from lead?
Lead pipes in homes can cause lead poisoning when lead dissolves into water, leading to ingestion or inhalation. Symptoms include abdominal pain, fatigue, and memory loss.
Lead pipes are a common source of lead poisoning in homes. Lead is a toxic metal that can cause serious health problems, particularly in children and pregnant women. Lead pipes can cause lead poisoning when the lead in the pipes begins to dissolve into the water that flows through them. This can happen when water is acidic or corrosive, or when the water sits in the pipes for long periods of time. The lead in the water can then be ingested or inhaled, leading to lead poisoning. Lead can also be present in the water as a result of other factors such as lead solder on copper pipes, or lead-based paint on the outside of pipes.
Symptoms of lead poisoning can include abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, irritability, memory loss, and numbness in the hands and feet. High levels of lead can also cause severe health problems such as brain damage, kidney failure, and even death. To prevent lead poisoning from lead pipes, it is important to have your water tested for lead, and to replace or remove any lead pipes in your home. If you suspect that your home may have lead pipes, it is important to consult a plumber or other professional to have them inspected and replaced. It’s also important to note that lead pipes were banned in the UK in 1970, so it is less likely to find them in newer buildings.
Examples of where lead can be found:
Examples of where lead might be found in a home:
- lead-based paint: lead-based paint was commonly used in homes built before 1978, and can still be found in many older homes. When the paint deteriorates or is disturbed, it can release lead dust into the air.
- lead water pipes: lead pipes were commonly used in homes built before the 1980s, and can still be found in many older homes. When the pipes corrode, they can release lead into the water supply.
- lead in soil: lead can be found in soil surrounding homes and buildings, especially near busy roads or highways where leaded gasoline was used in the past.
- lead in textured finishings and similar : some textured finishings, such as ‘popcorn’ or ‘artex’ ceilings, also may contain lead.
- lead in other building materials: some building materials such as roofing, flashing and gutters may also contain lead.
In summary: Lead poisoning can lead to serious illness or death and would affect habitability
Checklist question: are you in a very high radon area? Is the property protected against radon exposure? See:
Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that can cause lung cancer and other respiratory problems. It’s highest in England’s south west, midlands, and north west due to high uranium soil levels.
Postcode search for radon levels
Section below on how to reduce radon exposure
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can seep into homes and buildings through cracks in the foundation, and it can reach dangerous levels in certain parts of England. Radon is responsible for the majority of the exposure to natural radiation in the UK and it is considered to be the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
Radon risk is highest in certain parts of England, ( See maps: https://www.UKradon.Org/information/UKmaps ) particularly in areas with high levels of uranium in the soil, such as the south west, the midlands, and the north west. This is due to the geology of these regions, which is more conducive to the release of radon gas.
The implications of radon radiation poisoning can be serious, as prolonged exposure to high levels of radon can increase the risk of lung cancer. Radon can also cause other health problems such as respiratory illnesses.
If high levels of radon are found, there are several methods that can be used to reduce radon levels, such as sealing cracks in the foundation and increasing ventilation. Further explanation below.
It’s important to note that radon gas is colourless, odourless, and tasteless, so the only way to know if you have a problem with radon is to have your home tested. The UK government recommends having your home tested for radon if you live in an area that is considered to be at high risk for radon.
Reducing radon exposure
There are several methods that can be used to reduce radon levels in a property. The most appropriate method will depend on the specific circumstances of the property, such as its age, construction, and location. Here are a few methods that can be used to reduce radon levels:
- seal foundation cracks and openings: radon can enter a property through cracks and openings in the foundation. Sealing these cracks and openings can help to reduce radon levels by blocking the entry of the gas.
- increase ventilation: increasing ventilation in the property can help to reduce radon levels by diluting the gas and removing it from the property. This can be achieved by installing a radon sump system, which uses a pipe and fan to extract radon gas from beneath the property and vent it to the outside.
- increase underfloor ventilation: increasing ventilation in the sub-floor void can help to reduce radon levels, this can be achieved by installing a radon barrier or using a radon fan
- install a radon barrier membrane: a radon barrier membrane is a gas-tight layer that is installed on top of the ground beneath the property’s concrete slab or floor. This barrier can prevent radon gas from entering the property.
- use a soil depressurization system: a soil depressurization system uses a pipe to extract radon gas from beneath the property and vent it to the outside. This method is effective in reducing radon levels in properties with crawl spaces or basements.
- it’s important to note that reducing radon levels in a property requires professional assessment, and it may involve a combination of several methods. It’s also important to note that radon reduction methods should be maintained over time to ensure their effectiveness.
In summary: elevated levels of would affect habitability
Uncombusted fuel gas ↑
Checklist question: has the property failed a gas safety certification test? And/or does the property have gas central heating and/or a gas hob over 25 years of age?
Gas appliances not properly installed, maintained, and ventilated can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, fire hazards, explosion hazards, poor indoor air quality.
Combustion gas appliances, such as boilers, heaters, and stoves, can pose several risks if they are not properly installed, maintained, and ventilated. These risks include:
- carbon monoxide (co) poisoning: combustion gas appliances that are not properly ventilated or maintained can release co, an odorless and colorless gas that can be deadly if inhaled in high concentrations. Co can cause symptoms such as headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and confusion, and high levels can lead to brain damage or death.
- fire hazards: combustion gas appliances that are not properly installed or maintained can pose a fire risk. They can release gas leaks, which can lead to a fire if the gas comes into contact with an ignition source.
- explosion hazards: combustion gas appliances that are not properly installed or maintained can also pose an explosion hazard. They can release gas leaks, which can lead to an explosion if the gas comes into contact with an ignition source.
- poor indoor air quality: combustion appliances that are not properly vented can also lead to poor indoor air quality. This can cause breathing problems, allergies, and other health issues.
- noise pollution: combustion appliances that are not properly installed or maintained can cause noise pollution.
In summary: If there is a gas safety issue, it can be deathly and so would affect habitability
Volatile organic compounds ↑
Checklist question: Does the property smell of ‘chemicals’?
VOCs are chemicals in household products that can cause health problems and long-term exposure can lead to serious health issues.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a group of chemicals that can evaporate at room temperature and can be found in many common household products such as paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, and air fresheners. They are also emitted by furniture, carpets, and building materials.
VOCs can have negative effects on human health and the environment. When they are released into the air, they can cause a range of health problems such as headaches, dizziness, allergies, asthma and cancer. Long-term exposure to high levels of vocs can also lead to more serious health problems, such as liver and kidney damage, and central nervous system damage.
It’s important to minimize exposure to VOCs by choosing products with low VOC content, using natural alternatives and ventilation system properly, and avoiding products that have strong chemical odors.
It’s also important to note that, although VOCs are emitted at higher levels when products are first used, they can continue to be emitted at lower levels for a long time after application.
Examples of household volatile organic compounds:
- paints and coatings: paints, varnishes, and other coatings can release VOCs into the air, particularly when they are applied or when they dry.
- cleaning products: many cleaning products, including laundry detergents, dishwashing liquids, and all-purpose cleaners, contain VOCs.
- furniture: some furniture and upholstery can release vocs into the air, particularly when they are new.
- building materials: certain building materials, such as insulation and particleboard, can release vocs into the air.
- personal care products: many personal care products, such as perfumes, colognes, and hair sprays, contain VOCs.
- air fresheners and candles: air fresheners, candles, and other fragranced products can release VOCs into the air.
- pesticides and other chemical products: pesticides, fungicides, and other chemical products used for pest control or cleaning can release VOCs into the air.
UK government information on VOCs
In summary: If there are persistent issues with volatile organic compounds, they can affect long-term health and so would affect habitability
Crowding and space ↑
Checklist question: Are rooms in this property excessively small?
UK gov. guidelines for new build homes suggest a minimum floor area and storage, with bedrooms meeting width and height requirements.
UK government guidelines for new build property suggests that:
- the dwelling provides at least the gross internal floor area and built-in storage area set out in table 1 below
- a dwelling with two or more bedspaces has at least one double (or twin) bedroom
- in order to provide one bedspace, a single bedroom has a floor area of at least 7.5m2 and is at least 2.15m wide
- in order to provide two bedspaces, a double (or twin bedroom) has a floor area of at least 11.5m2
- one double (or twin bedroom) is at least 2.75m wide and every other double (or twin) bedroom is at least 2.55m wide
- any area with a headroom of less than 1.5m is not counted within the gross internal area unless used solely for storage (if the area under the stairs is to be used for storage, assume a general floor area of 1m2 within the gross internal area)
- any other area that is used solely for storage and has a headroom of 900-1500mm (such as under eaves) is counted at 50% of its floor area, and any area lower than 900mm is not counted at all
- a built-in wardrobe counts towards the gross internal area and bedroom floor area requirements, but should not reduce the effective width of the room below the minimum widths set out above. The built-in area in excess of 0.72m2 in a double bedroom and 0.36m2 in a single bedroom counts towards the built-in storage requirement
- the minimum floor to ceiling height is 2.3m for at least 75% of the gross internal area
If a property has excessively small rooms based on government guidance, then it’s arguable that there is inadequate space in the property.
In summary: If properties have particularly small footprints, that can affect quality-of-life and so would affect habitability
Entry by intruders ↑
Checklist question: does the property have secure doors and windows?
Properties without secure doors, windows, security cameras/alarms, lighting, perimeter security and access control are vulnerable to entry by intruders.
- weak or unlocked doors and windows, or no security bars or grates.
- no security cameras or alarms.
- poor exterior lighting, especially around access points and entry ways, can make it easier for burglars to gain access without being noticed.
- no perimeter security: properties without fencing or walls around the perimeter can be easily accessed by burglars.
- no access control: properties without access control systems, such as keyless entry systems, can be easily accessed by unauthorized people
Could qualify as being vulnerable to entry by intruders.
In summary: If a property has compromised security, it affects personal safety and thus would affect habitability
Checklist question: does the property suffer from very poor internal lighting?
Recommended light levels range from 150 lux for general living areas to 500 lux for high-precision tasks.
The UK government does not have specific guidelines on internal lighting levels for residential properties, however the building regulations 2010, part l conservation of fuel and power, require that new build and certain other buildings must meet certain standards in terms of energy efficiency, which includes the design of lighting systems.
Additionally, the royal institute of british architects (riba) and the chartered institution of building services engineers (cibse) have published guidelines for lighting design in buildings, including residential properties. These guidelines recommend minimum light levels for various types of rooms, such as living rooms and bedrooms, and also provide guidance on factors such as color rendering and glare control.
The lighting industry association (lia) also published a lighting guide lg7: domestic lighting. This guide provides guidance on lighting design and the selection of lighting equipment for residential properties. It also covers key principles, such as providing good general lighting, appropriate task lighting, and maintaining good color rendering.
The riba plan of work recommends minimum light levels of:
- 150 lux (14 footcandles) for general living areas, such as living rooms and bedrooms
- 300 lux (28 footcandles) for task-oriented spaces, such as kitchens and studies
- 500 lux (46 footcandles) for high-precision tasks, such as reading and writing
Cibse also recommends minimum light levels for various types of rooms, such as:
- 50-75 lux (5-7 footcandles) for corridors
- 300 lux (28 footcandles) for kitchens
- 500 lux (46 footcandles) for reading and writing
In terms of building regulations 2010 part l: conservation of fuel and power, it requires that new build and certain other buildings must meet certain standards in terms of energy efficiency, which includes the design of lighting systems. This means that new build residential properties need to have energy efficient lighting systems, which are designed to reduce energy consumption and to provide enough light levels for the intended use of the space. The lighting systems should also comply with the relevant British standards.
To give you an idea of how bright these levels are, here are a few examples of what 150 lux, 300 lux, and 500 lux might look like in different settings:
- 150 lux is roughly equivalent to the light level of a well-lit living room at night with all the lights on. It’s bright enough to comfortably move around and perform general tasks, but not so bright that it’s uncomfortable to the eyes.
- 300 lux is roughly equivalent to the light level of a kitchen with all the lights on during the day. It’s bright enough to perform tasks that require more precision, such as cooking or doing homework.
- 500 lux is roughly equivalent to the light level of an office with all the lights on during the day. It’s very bright and is suitable for tasks that require very high precision, such as reading or writing.
In summary: Poor lighting would affect habitability
Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse ↑
Checklist question: is the property very unclean? And/or is there accumulated rubbish inside and outside? And/or is there a strong likelihood of vermin at the property?
Inadequate cleaning, pests, lack of sanitation, and improper storage of waste can cause illness and unsanitary conditions.
Domestic hygiene, pests, and refuse are all issues that can affect the health and safety of occupants in a residential property. Here are a few examples of how these issues can manifest:
- inadequate cleaning: properties that are not regularly cleaned can become dirty and unsanitary, which can lead to the buildup of dust, mold, and bacteria.
- pests: properties that are infested with pests such as cockroaches, rats, or bed bugs can be unsanitary and can also cause allergic reactions.
- refuse: properties that do not have adequate provision for the disposal of waste water and household waste can become unsanitary and can attract pests.
- lack of proper sanitation: properties without proper sanitation such as a toilet or bathroom, can be unsanitary and can cause health issues.
- overflowing or blocked gutters and downpipes can cause damp and mold in the property, as well as potential health hazards.
- poor ventilation in kitchens and bathrooms can increase the risk of mold growth and poor air quality.
- insufficient storage space for refuse can cause it to accumulate, creating a breeding ground for pests and unpleasant odors.
In summary: Risk of illness from poor hygiene would affect habitability
Checklist question: Does your property suffer from excessive noise nearby?
Properties near roads, airports, industrial areas, noisy venues, or other residential properties can suffer from excessive noise affecting habitability.
Properties can suffer from excessive noise for a variety of reasons:
- proximity to busy roads or highways: properties located near busy roads or highways can be exposed to excessive noise from traffic, which can make it difficult for occupants to sleep or to carry out other activities.
- proximity to airports or railway stations: properties located near airports or railway stations can be exposed to excessive noise from planes or trains, which can also make it difficult for occupants to sleep or to carry out other activities.
- proximity to industrial or commercial areas: properties located near industrial or commercial areas can be exposed to excessive noise from factories or businesses, which can also make it difficult for occupants to sleep or to carry out other activities.
- proximity to other sources of noise: properties located near sources of noise such as construction sites, pubs, clubs, or other entertainment venues can also suffer from excessive noise
- proximity to other noisy residential properties: properties located near other noisy residential properties may also suffer from excessive noise.
Government guidance on noise issues
In summary: Excessive noise would affect habitability
Food safety ↑
Checklist question: does the property have adequate food storage provision? Is the kitchen in reasonable condition?
Inadequate food storage and poor kitchen condition can lead to food contamination.
Food safety issues can arise in homes for a variety of reasons, some examples:
- cross-contamination: if food is not properly stored or prepared, it can become contaminated with harmful bacteria or other pathogens. This can occur when raw meats are not properly separated from other foods, or when cutting boards and utensils are not properly cleaned between uses.
- improper storage: if food is not stored properly, it can become spoiled or contaminated. This can occur if food is left out at room temperature for too long, or if it is not stored in airtight containers.
- poor hygiene: if kitchen surfaces, utensils, and hands are not properly cleaned, food can become contaminated. This can occur if kitchen surfaces are not cleaned regularly, or if hands are not washed before handling food.
- lack of proper refrigeration: if food is not properly refrigerated, it can become spoiled or contaminated. This can occur if refrigeration equipment is not functioning properly, or if food is not stored at the appropriate temperature.
- cooked food not reheated to a safe temperature: when reheating cooked food, it is important to bring it to a safe temperature to kill off any bacteria that may have formed. If food is not reheated properly, it can cause food poisoning.
- using expired or contaminated ingredients: using ingredients that are expired or have been contaminated with bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms, can cause food poisoning.
If a kitchen is in poor condition, it is arguable that there is inadequate food safety.
In summary: If it’s difficult to ensure food safety, that would affect habitability
Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage ↑
Checklist questions: does the property have reasonable bathroom facilities and/or are the drains and gutters functional and/or does the property have hot water?
Inadequate hygiene, sanitation and drainage can affect habitability by causing difficulties in personal hygiene, poor air quality, mold growth, and unsanitary conditions.
Personal hygiene, sanitation, and drainage issues that can affect a property in england:
- insufficient bathroom facilities: properties that do not have enough bathrooms or toilets can make it difficult for occupants to maintain good personal hygiene.
- lack of hot water: properties without a functioning hot water system can make it difficult for occupants to properly clean themselves and their clothing.
- poor drainage: properties with poor drainage can cause water to accumulate in the property, leading to damp and mold growth, which can affect the health and well-being of the occupants.
- lack of proper sanitation: properties without proper sanitation, such as a toilet or bathroom, can be unsanitary and can cause health issues.
- blocked or overflowing gutters and downpipes: these can cause damp and mold in the property, as well as potential health hazards.
- lack of proper ventilation in kitchens and bathrooms can increase the risk of mold growth and poor air quality.
- inadequate refuse and waste disposal facilities: properties without proper refuse and waste disposal facilities can become unsanitary and can attract pests.
In summary: If it’s difficult to ensure adequate personal hygiene, that would affect habitability
Water supply ↑
Checklist question: does the property suffer from low water pressure and/or is it on the mains system?
Inadequate water supply affects habitability through low water pressure, intermittent supply, lack of hot water, leaks, burst pipes, water shortages, and limited access to clean water.
Some examples of how an inadequate water supply can affect a property:
- low water pressure: properties with low water pressure can make it difficult for occupants to take showers or to wash dishes or laundry.
- intermittent water supply: properties that have an intermittent water supply can make it difficult for occupants to plan their daily activities, and can also make it difficult to maintain good personal hygiene.
- lack of hot water: properties that do not have a functioning hot water system can make it difficult for occupants to properly clean themselves and their clothing.
- leaks or burst pipes: properties that have leaks or burst pipes can cause water damage and can also lead to an increase in the water bill.
- overuse of water: properties that have a limited water supply, such as those in rural areas, can experience water shortages during periods of high demand, such as during droughts.
- limited access to clean water: properties that are located in areas with limited access to clean water, such as properties in developing countries, can experience water-borne illnesses and other health issues.
UK government guidelines on necessary water pressure (ofwat)
In summary: If there is inadequate water supply, would affect habitability
Falls associated with bath or shower ↑
Checklist question: is the bathroom floor slippery and/or is lighting bad and/or is there a lot of condensation in the room?
Poor bathroom design, lack of safety features, poor lighting, cluttered spaces, steep entry, and poor ventilation can increase risk of slips and falls.
There are several bathroom design elements that can make a bathroom more prone to slips and falls:
- wet floors: bathrooms with a lot of hard surfaces, such as tile or marble, can be more slippery when wet. A floor that is not slip-resistant can be a major hazard, especially for older adults or those with mobility issues.
- lack of grab bars: bathrooms without grab bars or handrails can be more difficult to navigate, especially for older adults or those with mobility issues. Grab bars provide extra support and stability when getting in and out of the shower or bathtub.
- lack of proper lighting: poorly lit bathrooms can make it difficult to see hazards, such as wet floors or obstacles in the way. This can increase the risk of slips and falls.
- steep stairs: bathrooms with steep stairs, can be more difficult to climb, especially for older adults or those with mobility issues.
- cluttered spaces: bathrooms that are cluttered with personal items, can make it more difficult to navigate and increase the risk of slips and falls.
- steep entry into shower or bathtub: a steep entry into a shower or bathtub can make it difficult to step in and out, increasing the risk of slips and falls.
- poor ventilation: bathrooms that are poorly ventilated can become humid and damp, making the floor more slippery.
In summary: if a bathroom is designed poorly or is in bad condition, that would affect habitability.
Falls associated with stairs and steps ↑
Checklist question: does the staircase meet modern building regulations?
Staircases or steps can be prone to falls due to design elements such as lack of handrails, narrow or steep stairs, poor lighting, uneven or worn steps, lack of slip-resistance, and clutter or obstacles
In summary: if staircases or steps leading into a property are unusually steep, treads unusually narrow, weakness in the staircase, then it is arguable that there is a higher risk of falls associated with stairs and steps.
There are several design elements that can make stairs and steps in a property more prone to falls. Here are some examples:
- lack of handrails: stairs without handrails can be more difficult to navigate, especially for older adults or those with mobility issues. Handrails provide extra support and stability when climbing or descending stairs.
- narrow or steep stairs: stairs that are too narrow or steep can be more difficult to climb, especially for older adults or those with mobility issues. This can increase the risk of falls.
- poor lighting: poorly lit stairs can make it difficult to see hazards, such as obstacles or uneven steps. This can increase the risk of falls.
- uneven or worn steps: steps that are uneven or worn can create tripping hazards and increase the risk of falls.
- lack of slip-resistance: steps that are not slip-resistant can be more slippery when wet and can increase the risk of falls.
- lack of continuity: steps that are not uniform in height, width or location can create tripping hazards and increase the risk of falls.
- clutter or obstacles: steps that have clutter or obstacles in the way, can create tripping hazards and increase the risk of falls.
In the united kingdom, staircases in new builds and renovations are subject to the building regulations, which are set by the government to ensure that buildings are safe and accessible for all users. Here are some of the main criteria for staircases as outlined in UK building regulations:
- headroom: staircases must have a minimum headroom of 2m, measured vertically from the pitch line of the stair to the lowest point of the ceiling or soffit.
- width: staircases must have a minimum width of 600mm, measured between the handrails.
- treads and risers: the maximum rise for a step or stair should be 220mm and the minimum going (the horizontal distance from the face of one step to the face of the next) should be 220mm
- handrails: staircases must have handrails on at least one side, and these handrails must be between 900mm and 1000mm above the pitch line of the stair.
- lighting: staircases must have adequate lighting to ensure that users can safely navigate the stairs.
- slip resistance: staircases must have slip-resistant surfaces to reduce the risk of slips and falls.
- structural stability: staircases must be structurally stable and able to support the loads they will be subject to.
Useful guide on building regulations for staircases
In summary: If there is increased risk of fall or injury from the staircase, that would affect habitability
Falls on the level ↑
Checklist question: are the floors uneven and potentially very slippery?
If floors are uneven, cluttered, poorly lit, wet, slippery, poorly ventilated, with changes in floor level, lack of slip resistance, or inadequate protective equipment, then there is a higher risk of falls on level ground.
If a property has uneven floors and/or lack of slip resistance, then there is a greater likelihood of falls on level ground
Here are a some examples of why falls on the level can occur:
- uneven or poorly maintained surfaces: surfaces that are uneven, cracked or poorly maintained can create tripping hazards and increase the risk of falls.
- clutter or obstacles: surfaces that have clutter or obstacles in the way, such as cords, furniture or debris, can create tripping hazards and increase the risk of falls.
- poor lighting: poorly lit areas can make it difficult to see hazards, such as obstacles or uneven surfaces. This can increase the risk of falls.
- wet or slippery surfaces: surfaces that are wet or slippery, such as those that have been recently mopped or waxed, can increase the risk of falls.
- poor ventilation: poor ventilation can cause surfaces to become damp and slippery, increasing the risk of falls.
- changes in floor level: surfaces that have changes in level, such as a step or threshold, can create tripping hazards and increase the risk of falls.
- lack of slip-resistance: surfaces that are not slip-resistant can be more slippery when wet and can increase the risk of falls.
- inadequate personal protective equipment: lack of proper shoes or equipment for certain task, can increase the risk of falls.
In summary: If floors are uneven or there is elevated risk of fall, that would affect habitability
If a property has uneven floors and/or lack of slip resistance, then there is a greater likelihood of falls on level ground
Falls between levels ↑
Checklist question: do upstairs windows not close properly and/or are staircases in poor condition?
Falls between levels can occur due to lack of guardrails, poor staircase maintenance, uneven flooring, obstructed pathways, lack of handrails, and inadequate lighting.
Falls between levels refer to the danger of falling from one level to another, such as falling from a window or balcony. Here are a few examples of why falls between levels can occur:
- lack of guardrails: balconies, decks, or other elevated areas that do not have guardrails can increase the risk of falls.
- broken or missing windows: broken or missing windows can increase the risk of falls, especially if the window is located in a high-traffic area or near a stairway.
- poorly maintained stairways: stairways that are poorly maintained, such as those with missing or loose handrails, can increase the risk of falls.
- loose or uneven flooring: loose or uneven flooring, such as tiles or hardwood, can create tripping hazards and increase the risk of falls.
- unsecured rugs or mats: rugs or mats that are not properly secured to the floor can create tripping hazards and increase the risk of falls.
- uneven sidewalks or walkways: uneven sidewalks or walkways, such as those with cracks or raised surfaces, can create tripping hazards and increase the risk of falls.
- obstructed pathways: obstructed pathways, such as those with furniture or debris, can create tripping hazards and increase the risk of falls.
- lack of handrails: stairways or walkways that do not have handrails can increase the risk of falls.
- inadequate lighting: poorly lit areas, such as stairways or walkways, can make it difficult to see hazards and increase the risk of falls.
In summary: any environment where there is a serious likelihood of trip or falls would affect habitability.
Electrical hazards ↑
Checklist question: does the property have a failed electrical safety certificate and/or is the wiring and consumer unit more than 25 years old?
Electrical hazards include outdated wiring, lack of RCD protection, faulty electrical panels, overloaded outlets/circuits, poor labeling/ID of circuits, inadequate lighting/ventilation in electrical rooms, lack of earthing/bonding, and lack of surge protection. All these factors can increase the risk of electrical shock, fire, and damage to appliances/devices, impacting habitability.
Examples of dangerous electrics:
- outdated wiring: properties that have not been renovated in a long time may still have outdated wiring, such as aluminium wiring, which can pose a fire hazard.
- lack of rcd (residual current devices) protection: properties without rcds can increase the risk of electrical shock and electrocution.
- faulty or outdated electrical panels and circuit breakers: properties with faulty or outdated electrical panels and circuit breakers can increase the risk of electrical fires or power outages.
- overloaded electrical outlets and circuits: properties with too many appliances or devices plugged into a single outlet or circuit can increase the risk of electrical fires.
- lack of proper labelling and identification of electrical circuits: properties without proper labelling and identification of electrical circuits can make it difficult to locate and repair electrical issues.
- inadequate lighting and ventilation in electrical rooms: properties with inadequate lighting and ventilation in electrical rooms can increase the risk of electrical fires and hazards.
- lack of earthing and bonding: properties without proper earthing and bonding can increase the risk of electrical shock and electrocution.
- lack of surge protection: properties without surge protection can increase the risk of damage to appliances and electronic devices due to power surges.
In summary: any likelihood of injury from dangerous electrical installations would affect habitability
Fire and fire safety ↑
Checklist question: does the property lack fire separation and/or
Unmodernized residential properties in England may pose fire hazards due to lack of smoke alarms, fire separation, fire extinguishers, proper heating/ventilation, and proper storage of flammables. Improper electrical wiring and maintenance may also increase fire risk, and lack of fire escape plan and training can hinder occupants’ safety.
The main issues that apply to fire safety in unmodernised residential property in England
- lack of smoke alarms: unmodernized properties may not have smoke alarms installed, or the existing ones may be faulty or not in working order.
- polystyrene ceiling tiles: polystyrene tiles are not fire resistant, meaning that they can easily catch fire and contribute to the spread of flames.
- obstructed exits: unmodernized properties may have obstructed exits, such as blocked doors or windows, which can make it difficult for occupants to escape in case of a fire.
- lack of fire extinguishers: unmodernized properties may not have fire extinguishers installed, making it more difficult to put out a fire in its early stages.
- lack of fire separation: unmodernized properties may not have proper fire separation, such as fire doors or walls, which can allow a fire to spread more easily.
- inadequate electrical wiring and circuits: unmodernized properties may have outdated or faulty electrical wiring and circuits which can increase the risk of electrical fires.
- inadequate heating and ventilation: unmodernized properties may have poor heating and ventilation systems which can increase the risk of fires caused by buildup of flammable gases or dust.
- improper storage of flammable materials: unmodernized properties may have flammable materials such as chemicals, fuels or cleaning supplies improperly stored or left in open area which can increase the risk of fires.
- inadequate fire escape plan and training: unmodernized properties may not have adequate fire escape plan and training for occupants which can make it difficult for them to react quickly and safely in case of a fire.
- lack of maintenance: unmodernized properties may not have been regularly maintained and updated to meet current safety codes and regulations, making them more susceptible to fire hazards.
In England, fire separation refers to the physical barriers that are put in place to slow down or prevent the spread of fire and smoke throughout a building. These barriers include fire-resistant walls, floors, and ceilings, as well as fire doors, which are designed to close automatically in the event of a fire. In unmodernized properties, these fire separation measures may be lacking or may not be up to current building codes and standards, increasing the risk of fire spreading quickly and causing significant damage or injury. Examples of lack of fire separation in unmodernized properties include:
- missing or non-functioning fire doors: fire doors are designed to keep flames and smoke from spreading from one room to another. Without properly functioning fire doors, a fire can spread quickly throughout the property.
- lack of fire walls: fire walls are typically made of fire-resistant materials and are meant to separate different parts of a building to slow the spread of fire. Without proper fire walls, a fire can spread rapidly throughout the building.
- lack of fire-resistant materials: unmodernized properties may not have fire-resistant materials used in the walls, floor, and ceilings which can allow a fire to spread quickly through the building.
- non compliant with building regulations: not having the fire separation measures in place as per the building regulations and can increase the risk of fire spread.
In summary: If there is elevated risk of fire, that would affect habitability
Hot surfaces and materials ↑
Checklist question: are there dangerous hot surfaces which could cause injury in the property?
In the UK, various guidelines and regulations ensure safe use of hot surfaces and materials in residential properties, including building, electrical, gas, fire and health & safety standards.
In the UK, there are several guidelines and regulations in place for the safe installation and use of hot surfaces and materials in residential properties, to ensure the safety of the occupants. Some of the main guidelines include:
- building regulations: the building regulations in the UK set out specific requirements for the safe installation of hot surfaces and materials, such as the requirement for appropriate insulation and protection of hot surfaces, and the need for adequate ventilation to prevent the build-up of heat.
- electrical safety standards: the electrical safety standards are in place to ensure that all electrical equipment and appliances are safe to use, including standards for the safe installation and use of hot surfaces and materials such as ovens, hobs, and other heating devices.
- gas safety standards: the gas safety standards are in place to ensure that all gas appliances are safe to use, including standards for the safe installation and use of hot surfaces and materials such as boilers and central heating systems.
- fire safety standards: the fire safety standards are in place to ensure that properties are safe from fire hazards, including standards for the safe installation and use of hot surfaces and materials such as flues and chimneys, and the need for appropriate fire separation between rooms.
- health and safety standards: the health and safety standards are in place to ensure that properties are safe for occupants and meet the guidelines for the safe use of hot surfaces and materials.
In summary: If there are hot surfaces which could cause injury, that would affect habitability.
Collision and entrapment ↑
Checklist question: does the property have adequate guardrails and other means to prevent falls?
UK building regulations Part K require design & construction of properties to prevent collisions, entrapment hazards. Cover handrails, doors, windows, balconies, water features, playgrounds, flooring, to ensure safety of occupants.
The UK building regulations part k: protection from falling, collision and impact cover the collision and entrapment hazards in residential properties. These regulations set out specific requirements for the design and construction of buildings to ensure the safety of the occupants. Some examples of how these regulations relate to collision and entrapment in residential properties include:
- staircases must have handrails and balustrades that are of an appropriate height and design to prevent falls.
- internal and external doors must be of a size and design that allows occupants to move around safely and easily.
- windows and skylights must be designed and installed to prevent falls, and must have appropriate safety features such as guards or locks.
- balconies, decks, and other external areas must have guardrails or other barriers to prevent falls.
- swimming pools and other water features must be designed and constructed to prevent drowning or other injuries.
- playground equipment must be designed and constructed to prevent injuries from falls or other accidents.
- building structures must be designed and constructed to prevent collapse or other hazards that can cause injury.
- flooring surfaces must be slip-resistant and appropriate for the intended use of the space.
It’s important to note that these are just some examples of how the UK building regulations cover collision and entrapment hazards, and it’s recommended to consult with a professional to ensure compliance with all the regulations and ensure the safety of the occupants.
In summary: If there are features in the property which could cause collusion or entrapment, that would affect habitability.
Checklist question: are gas appliances old and/or are electrics in poor condition and/or is there accumulated material at risk of violently igniting?
UK residential properties may have risks of explosion from old/faulty gas appliances, stored flammable liquids, faulty electrical equipment, heavy dust accumulation, smoking, or poor ventilation.
There are several examples of where there is a risk of explosion in UK residential properties, some of them include:
- gas appliances: gas appliances such as boilers, ovens, and heaters can be a source of explosion if they are not properly installed, maintained or if there is a gas leak.
- flammable liquids: properties with flammable liquids such as cleaning agents, paint, or gasoline, stored in the home can be a source of explosion if they are not stored properly.
- electrical equipment: properties with faulty or outdated electrical equipment such as wiring, circuit breakers, or electrical panels can be a source of explosion if they are not properly maintained.
- dust accumulation: properties with heavy dust accumulation such as woodworking shops, grain storage, or homes with pets can be a source of explosion if the dust is not removed properly.
- smoking: smoking inside the property can be a source of explosion if the smoking materials are not properly disposed of.
- improper ventilation: properties with poor ventilation can build up flammable or explosive gases such as carbon monoxide or methane.
In summary: If there is risk of explosion in a property, that would affect habitability
Physical strain associated with operating amenities ↑
Checklist question: Are there any items or features that may result in physical strain during use in the property?
Properties with heavy doors, high shelves, large windows, heavy objects, steep stairs, and difficult-to-use bathtubs and showers may cause physical strain
There are several examples of physical strain associated with operating amenities in properties, some of them include:
- heavy doors: properties with very heavy doors, such as entrance doors, fire doors, or security doors can cause physical strain when opening and closing them.
- high shelves: properties with high shelves or cabinets that are difficult to reach without a ladder can cause physical strain when trying to access items stored there.
- large windows: properties with large windows that are difficult to open or close can cause physical strain when trying to operate them.
- heavy objects: properties with heavy objects such as appliances or furniture that are difficult to move can cause physical strain when trying to reposition them.
- steep stairs: properties with steep stairs or steps that are difficult to climb can cause physical strain when navigating them.
- bathtubs and shower: properties with heavy shower doors or bathtubs that are difficult to get in and out of can cause physical strain when trying to use them.
It’s important to note that these are just some examples of situations where there is a risk of physical strain associated with operating amenities in UK properties. To prevent these issues, it is important to design spaces that are easily accessible, and to provide appropriate assistance for those who may have difficulty with certain amenities.
In summary: If there are heavy doors or similar which are difficult to move, that would affect habitability.
Structural collapse and falling elements ↑
Checklist question: Are there structural problems or signs of falling elements in the property?
Risk of structural collapse and falling elements due to unsafe foundations, poor construction, rot, overload, natural disasters, lack of maintenance, or poor design.
There are several examples of structural collapse and falling elements in English properties, some of them include:
- unsafe foundations: properties with unsafe foundations such as homes built on unstable soil or with poor drainage can experience structural collapse.
- improperly constructed walls and ceilings: properties with walls and ceilings that were not properly constructed, such as those with poor materials or workmanship can experience structural collapse.
- rotting or termite-damaged wood: properties with rotting or termite-damaged wood in the structure of the building can experience structural collapse.
- overloading: properties that have been modified or added to without proper consideration of load-bearing capacity can experience structural collapse.
- natural disasters: properties that are located in areas prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods or heavy storms can experience structural collapse.
- lack of regular maintenance : properties that have not been regularly maintained, such as those with missing or damaged roofing or siding, can experience structural collapse.
- poorly designed elements: properties with poorly designed elements, such as balconies, decks or other elevated areas that are not properly supported, can experience falling elements.
It’s important to note that these are just some examples of situations where there is a risk of structural collapse and falling elements in english properties. Regular inspections, maintenance and proper design and construction can help to prevent these issues.
In summary: If there is risk of structural collapse or falling masonry, would affect habitability.