The complete guide to condition assessment for stamp duty reclaims

If you are planning to purchase a property and it is deemed ‘uninhabitable’ or ‘unliveable’ under the HHSRS (Housing Health and Safety Rating System) guidance, you might qualify for a SDLT (Stamp Duty Land Tax) saving.

Use our condition assessment tool to determine if your property should be classified as ‘non-residential’.

Condition assessment tool

Check if your property is eligible for a stamp duty rebate by using our condition assessment tool.

Eligible for a stamp duty refund?

If your property was technically uninhabitable due to condition hazards at the time of purchase, you may be due Stamp duty rebate

Under HMRC guidance, properties with condition hazards that impact health, safety, or mental well-being should be classified as non-residential for stamp duty purposes. This means if you purchased a property deemed ‘uninhabitable’ under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), you might have overpaid stamp duty and can legally reclaim it.

HMRC states that properties with hazards justifying a potential prohibition notice should not be considered residential dwellings for stamp duty. These hazards, including issues like damp, mould, faulty wiring, or lack of heating, align with Category 1 and Category 2 hazards under HHSRS.

For a successful reclaim, gather detailed inspection reports, photographic evidence, and expert testimony showing these hazards at the time of purchase. This documentation supports your claim that the property should have been classified as non-residential, potentially reducing your stamp duty liability.

Using our condition assessment tool, you can evaluate your property’s condition and determine eligibility for reclassification and stamp duty savings. Contact us for assistance with reclaiming overpaid stamp duty in accordance with HMRC guidelines.

Overpaid SDLT Reclamation Procedure

We help clients recover overpaid stamp duty (SDLT) on residential properties purchased within the past 4 years. Our service operates on a “no win, no fee” basis. Details on our fees can be found on our Pricing Page.

To check your eligibility for a stamp duty refund, consider the following:

  1. Property Condition: If you bought a property in poor repair, use our Condition Assessment Tool to see if it qualifies as ‘non-residential’.
  2. Refund Estimation: Use our tool to estimate potential stamp duty refunds.

If you meet the criteria, contact us with details about the property and provide photos of its condition at the time of purchase. If photos are unavailable, we might use images from Rightmove ‘sold prices’.

We will create a case file for you to ensure your claim is valid. If it is, we will submit it to HMRC for review.

Once HMRC accepts the reclassification from residential to non-residential, you can expect a refund within 6 to 8 weeks.

Important to remember

The process of assessing claims by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) involves discretion on their part.

Each case is evaluated on its own merit, and a decision will be made based on the specific circumstances. Government guidelines on habitability are taken into consideration by HMRC, but the ultimate decision on whether to reclassify a property as non-residential is left to their discretion.

Given the discretionary nature of obtaining stamp duty refunds from HMRC, it is important to work with a company that has a strong relationship with HMRC and a proven track record of successfully securing such refunds. This is why we have partnered with TYH claims. We are confident in their ability to successfully obtain SDLT refunds for you.

Condition issues

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 neglected property in bad condition is one that has not been properly maintained and has fallen into disrepair. These properties often have serious issues that can pose health and safety risks to occupants, aligning with Category 1 or Category 2 hazards under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Examples of such hazards include:

  • Structural Issues: Leaks, cracks, and rot can compromise the building’s integrity.
  • Pest Infestations: Vermin can pose significant health risks.
  • Damp and Mould: Poor insulation and ventilation can lead to damp, mould growth, and increased energy costs.
  • Outdated Systems: Non-functional electrical, plumbing, and heating systems can be dangerous and inefficient.
  • Aesthetic and Functional Issues: Peeling paint, broken fixtures, and overgrown gardens reflect neglect.

Specific signs of a neglected property include:

  • Water Damage: Peeling paint, water stains, and mould growth from leaks.
  • Window Problems: Cracked or broken windows indicating poor weather-proofing.
  • Roof Damage: Missing or damaged tiles showing roofing neglect.
  • Overgrown Exterior: Unmaintained gardens signaling exterior neglect.
  • Damp Odours: Musty smells pointing to moisture and ventilation issues.
  • Broken Fixtures: Missing door handles, light switches, and plug sockets indicating neglect of functional elements.
  • Unsafe Wiring: Outdated electrical systems posing safety hazards.
  • Structural Cracks: Indicating possible structural integrity issues.
  • Drainage Problems: Poorly maintained drains leading to sanitation issues.
  • Pest Problems: Infestations signaling a lack of sanitary maintenance.

Understanding these issues helps determine if a property qualifies for reclassification under HMRC guidance. Properties with such HHSRS Category 1 or 2 hazards can be classified as non-residential for stamp duty purposes, allowing for potential SDLT refunds. This reclassification can significantly impact the stamp duty paid and potentially lead to a refund if the property was in poor condition at the time of purchase.

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 various factors, including changes in soil moisture levels, extraction of underground resources, and natural soil compaction over time.

Subsidence can lead to significant structural damage, including cracks in walls, floors, and ceilings. It is crucial to distinguish subsidence from settlement, which happens when a building’s structure collapses or sinks due to poor construction or inadequate soil compaction. Signs of subsidence include visible cracks and door frames that are no longer square or level.

In the context of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), subsidence can create Category 1 or Category 2 hazards. These hazards pose serious risks to health and safety and require immediate attention (Category 1) or significant risks that still need addressing (Category 2). Because of these risks, properties with subsidence are typically avoided. Subsidence usually indicates inadequate foundations, necessitating underpinning and posing substantial collapse risks.

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.

Understanding Damp and Its Impact on Property Condition

There are two main types of damp that can affect a property, both of which fall under HHSRS Category 1 or Category 2 hazards due to their potential to impact health and habitability.

1. Water Ingress Damp:

  • Cause: Water entering the building from outside.
  • Sources: Leaking roof, faulty gutters, or inadequate weather-proofing.
  • Effects: Damage to walls, ceilings, and floors; growth of mould.
  • Treatment: Identify and repair the source of the leak, such as fixing gutters, repairing leaking pipes, or sealing window and door frames.

2. Rising Damp:

  • Cause: Water rising from the ground through the building walls.
  • Sources: Failure of the damp-proof course (DPC), a barrier designed to prevent ground moisture from rising.
  • Effects: Damage to walls, peeling wallpaper, and growth of mould.
  • Diagnosis: Often requires a damp meter to confirm its presence.
  • Treatment: Repair or replace the DPC to stop moisture from rising.

Serious damp issues, whether due to water ingress or rising damp, can significantly affect a property’s habitability by compromising the health and safety of occupants. Such conditions are classified under the HHSRS as Category 1 or Category 2 hazards, underscoring the importance of addressing these issues promptly to maintain a safe living environment.

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

Certain hazards, identified as Category One or Two under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), can make a property unsafe and potentially eligible for reclassification as ‘non-residential’ for stamp duty purposes. Examples of such hazards include:

  1. Lack of Adequate Means of Egress: Properties without a secondary escape route in case of fire. Survey reports often highlight poor means of secondary escape, such as inadequate upstairs windows.
  2. Narrow or Winding Staircases: Staircases that are difficult to navigate, especially in an emergency. Though uncommon, these can pose significant risks.
  3. Small, Non-functional Spaces: Rooms too small to be used comfortably or effectively. These properties are often avoided due to the high cost of making them functional.
  4. Poor Ventilation and Lack of Natural Light: Rooms without proper ventilation or access to natural light can lead to mold, dampness, and unhealthy living conditions. Inadequate ventilation is relatively common and can result in excessive condensation and mold growth.
  5. Insufficient Insulation: Poorly insulated spaces lead to heat loss and increased energy consumption. Properties with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of E are often inadequately insulated.
  6. Inadequate Kitchen Design: Kitchens without proper ventilation, sufficient counter space, or suitable layout can create health and safety hazards, making it difficult to cook or clean effectively. This issue is commonplace in 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 UK, the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) outlines the importance of adequate natural light in properties, categorized into Category 1 (serious) and Category 2 (less serious) hazards. Ensuring sufficient daylight can prevent health and safety issues such as mould and mildew, which can fall under these categories.

The key measurement for daylight in a room is the “Daylight Factor,” which compares the natural light entering a room to the amount that would enter with an unobstructed view of the sky. The standards are:

  • At least 1% of the floor area should have a daylight factor of at least 2%.
  • At least 50% of the floor area should have a daylight factor of at least 1%.

This means that a small portion of the room should receive sufficient light comparable to a clear sky view, ensuring comfort and safety.

Common Issues Leading to Insufficient Natural Light

While it’s rare for rooms to lack adequate natural light, some common issues include:

  • Small or Obstructed Windows: Overgrown vegetation or small windows block light.
  • North-Facing Rooms: Limited access to direct sunlight.
  • Basement Rooms: Restricted natural light due to underground location.
  • Poor Property Layout: Lack of design considerations for natural light, such as absence of skylights.
  • High-Density Urban Areas: Surrounding buildings block sunlight, limiting light access.

Ensuring Adequate Daylight

Meeting these daylight criteria helps ensure that rooms are comfortable and safe for occupancy, minimizing hazards related to inadequate natural light. Assess your property layout and consider possible improvements to enhance natural light and meet HHSRS guidelines.

There’s not enough ventilation

Checklist question: do the kitchen, living rooms or bedrooms not have enough ventilation?

Poor ventilation can lead to condensation and high carbon dioxide levels, making a property uninhabitable.

Key points about ventilation:

  • Room Size and Usage: Ventilation needs vary based on the room’s size and its use. For example, kitchens should have an extractor fan or an openable window to ensure proper ventilation.
  • Building Regulations: All habitable rooms must have an openable window or another ventilation method. The window opening should be at least 5% of the room’s floor area or 0.33m², whichever is larger.
  • Identifying Inadequate Ventilation:
    • A kitchen without mechanical ventilation or easily openable windows has inadequate ventilation.
    • A bedroom without an openable window or a ventilation brick also has inadequate ventilation.

Inadequate ventilation leads to condensation and elevated carbon dioxide levels, which significantly impact the property’s habitability according to HHSRS guidelines.

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 without running water, but some derelict properties lack mains water. More commonly, properties may have inadequate means of providing hot water, which can significantly impact habitability.

Key issues include:

  1. Old, Inefficient Boiler: Unable to heat water to a sufficient temperature.
  2. Low Flow Rate: Hot water can’t flow quickly enough to reach all parts of the property.
  3. Faulty Hot Water Cylinder: Inability to maintain a consistent temperature.
  4. Leaks in the Hot Water System: Hot water is lost before reaching the taps.
  5. Lack of Insulation: Heat is lost from pipes, causing hot water to cool before reaching the taps.
  6. Poor Maintenance: Sediment and rust build-up reduces efficiency and leads to an inadequate hot water supply.

These issues fall under HHSRS Category One or Two hazards, highlighting serious risks to health and safety. Having reliable hot water is a basic necessity, and its absence can render a property uninhabitable.

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.

Problems with drainage or lavatories in residential properties are uncommon but can occur due to various reasons, often classified as Category One or Category Two hazards under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). These issues can significantly affect habitability and include:

  1. Blocked or Clogged Pipes: Slow or no flow of wastewater due to blockages.
  2. Leaking Toilets or Sinks: Resulting in water damage and potential flooding.
  3. Faulty Septic Tanks or Sewage Systems: Leading to ineffective waste management.
  4. Poor Ventilation in Bathrooms: Causing dampness and mould growth.
  5. Cracked or Broken Lavatory Bowls or Cisterns: Resulting in leaks or flooding.
  6. Inadequate Waste Water Management Systems: Absence of soakaways causing standing water.
  7. Outdated Plumbing Systems: Unable to handle current water usage.
  8. Poor Maintenance: Leading to debris build-up and blockages in the drainage or sewage system.
  9. Lack of Access for Maintenance: Making it difficult to repair drainage or sewage issues.
  10. No Grey Water Treatment: Leading to groundwater contamination.

In summary, a residential property must have adequate sanitary facilities. The absence or failure of these systems, classified as Category One or Category Two hazards, can severely impact the property’s 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.

Inadequate Kitchen Facilities and Habitability: HHSRS Category 1 and 2 Hazards

If a property has any of the following kitchen issues, it may fall under Category 1 or 2 hazards according to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), affecting its habitability:

  • Lack of functional kitchen appliances: Missing or non-working stove or oven.
  • No running water: Malfunctioning sink or no water supply.
  • Insufficient counter space or storage: Not enough room for food preparation or storage.
  • No functional electrical outlets: Lack of accessible outlets for small appliances.
  • Poor lighting: Inadequate lighting making it hard to see while preparing food.
  • Pest infestation: Presence of pests making the kitchen unhygienic.
  • Lack of storage space: Absence of a pantry or adequate food storage areas.
  • Damaged cabinetry and countertops: Broken or missing cabinets and countertops.
  • Lack of ventilation: Inability to cook without smoke and odours filling the home.
  • No refrigerator access: Lack of a refrigerator for proper food storage.

In summary, inadequate kitchen facilities significantly impact the habitability of a property.

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 (stachybotrys chartarum) is a fungus that thrives in damp areas of buildings. It poses significant health risks because it produces toxic mycotoxins. These hazards are categorized under HHSRS as either Category One or Category Two, depending on severity.

Health Risks of Black Mould

  1. Respiratory Issues:
    • Allergic Reactions: Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash.
    • Serious Conditions: Asthma, bronchitis, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis can develop or worsen with exposure.
    • Neurological Symptoms: Headaches, fatigue, and concentration difficulties.
  2. Aggravation of Pre-existing Conditions:
    • Allergies and asthma can be significantly worsened by black mould exposure.
  3. Health Risks to Animals:
    • Pets can suffer from respiratory issues, skin irritations, and other health problems.

Detection of Black Mould

  • Visible Growth: Look for dark, fuzzy, or slimy patches on walls, ceilings, or floors. These patches often appear in clusters.
  • Musty Odours: A strong, musty smell, especially in damp areas like bathrooms or basements, can indicate mould presence.
  • Symptoms of Exposure: If you experience sneezing, coughing, runny nose, or itchy eyes without a known cause, check for mould.
  • Water Damage: Mould often grows in areas with water damage. Look for water stains, peeling paint, or warped wood.
  • Hidden Mould: Sometimes, mould is not visible on surfaces but can be detected by inspecting inside walls or ceilings.

In summary, black mould is a serious health hazard under the HHSRS, affecting the habitability of a property. Proper inspection and remediation are crucial to ensure a safe living environment.

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

Under the HHSRS (Housing Health and Safety Rating System), properties with Category 1 or Category 2 hazards should be considered for non-residential classification for stamp duty purposes. These hazards can significantly impact the health, safety, and well-being of occupants, making the property uninhabitable.

Excess Cold

The UK government doesn’t specify a “reasonable cost” for heating a home, but a property with an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of E or lower likely suffers from excess cold, making it uninhabitable. An EPC rating evaluates a property’s energy efficiency, ranging from A (very efficient) to G (inefficient). Properties with the following issues might be considered uninhabitable due to excess cold:

  • Insufficient insulation in walls, floors, or roof
  • Poorly sealed windows and doors
  • Lack of double glazing
  • Inefficient heating systems
  • Blocked chimneys or flues
  • Lack of thermal curtains or blinds
  • Absence of internal walls or partitions, causing drafts
  • Poor quality carpets or rugs
  • Lack of radiators or heated towel rails
  • Inadequate ventilation, causing dampness and mold
  • Poor external weather protection, leading to water ingress

A habitable property must maintain a minimum temperature of 18°C.

Excess Heat

Properties prone to excessive heat can also be deemed uninhabitable. This may include:

  • Top-floor flats
  • Flats with windows only on one side
  • Lack of shading (external or internal)
  • Large unshaded east, west, or south-facing windows
  • Urban locations with limited green space
  • Highly insulated, airtight, or energy-efficient homes
  • Restricted window openings due to safety catches, noise, pollution, or fear of crime

Checklist

  • Is the property prone to becoming excessively hot in hot weather?
  • Does it have insufficient insulation, inadequate shading, or limited window openings?

Properties with these issues may significantly impact habitability and should be assessed for non-residential classification for stamp duty purposes. This classification can lead to potential tax savings and ensure the property meets health and safety standards as outlined by the HHSRS.

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 refers to several naturally occurring minerals crystallized into fibers that are strong, heat-resistant, and chemical-resistant. These fibers do not dissolve in water or evaporate. Asbestos comes in two main types:

  • Serpentine (White Asbestos)
  • Amphiboles (Blue and Brown Asbestos)

Before its ban, asbestos was widely used in building materials, insulation for boilers and pipes, car brakes, and floor tiles. The UK banned all forms of asbestos in 1999, with amphibole asbestos banned since 1985 due to its higher hazard level.

Health Risks of Asbestos

When intact and undamaged, asbestos is not harmful. However, damaged asbestos can release fibers that, when inhaled or swallowed, can cause serious health issues such as asbestosis and cancer. Asbestos is classified as a carcinogen to humans.

Common Asbestos Locations in Properties

Asbestos was used extensively in construction materials before the 1980s and can still be found in older properties. Key locations include:

  • Insulation Materials: Walls, floors, ceilings (loose fibers, sprayed-on coatings, insulation boards).
  • Roofing Materials: Corrugated and flat roofing, guttering, downpipes.
  • Flooring Materials: Floor tiles, vinyl flooring, flooring adhesives.
  • Textured Coatings: Ceilings and walls (e.g., Artex).
  • Boiler and Pipe Insulation: Boilers, pipes, ductwork.

Hidden Asbestos

Asbestos might not always be visible and can be hidden behind walls or under floors. Professional asbestos surveys are crucial to identify its presence and location before any work is done on the property.

Importance of Asbestos Assessment

Asbestos is a significant health hazard classified under Category 1 of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Properties with Category 1 or 2 hazards, such as asbestos, should be assessed for their habitability. If asbestos is present, it impacts the property’s safety and habitability, influencing its classification for various legal and financial purposes, including stamp duty.

Summary

Asbestos poses extreme dangers if present in a property, affecting its habitability and safety. Ensuring a professional assessment is essential to address these hazards and protect occupants’ health.

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 produced by appliances and equipment that burn fuels like gas, oil, wood, and coal. CO poisoning can be fatal and is a serious concern in properties using these fuels. Properties with such hazards fall under HHSRS Category One or Category Two and can affect habitability.

Here are ways to identify properties at risk:

  1. Signs of Poor Maintenance: Check for rust, soot, or discoloration around appliances and equipment. Poor maintenance can increase the risk of CO poisoning.
  2. Proper Ventilation: Ensure vents are not blocked, and flue pipes are present. Proper ventilation is crucial to prevent CO build-up.
  3. CO Detectors: Properties without CO detectors are at higher risk. Detectors are essential safety features in properties using CO-producing fuels.
  4. Warning Signs: Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and confusion. If these symptoms are present, it could indicate CO poisoning.
  5. Type of Fuel Used: Properties using gas, oil, wood, and coal are at higher risk of CO poisoning due to CO release when these fuels burn.

Summary

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal and poses a significant risk to habitability, falling under HHSRS Category One or Category Two hazards. Identifying and mitigating these risks is crucial for ensuring safety in properties using such fuels.

Lead

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

Radiation

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 significant risks if they are not properly installed, maintained, and ventilated. These risks include:

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning: Appliances that are not correctly ventilated or maintained can release CO, an odorless and colorless gas. High levels of CO can be deadly, causing symptoms like headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, confusion, and in severe cases, brain damage or death. This is classified as a Category 1 hazard under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

Fire Hazards: Improperly installed or maintained gas appliances can release gas leaks, which pose a significant fire risk if the gas encounters an ignition source. This is also considered a Category 1 hazard.

Explosion Hazards: Gas leaks from poorly maintained or installed appliances can lead to explosions if the gas comes into contact with an ignition source, another Category 1 hazard.

Poor Indoor Air Quality: Inadequately vented combustion appliances can degrade indoor air quality, leading to breathing problems, allergies, and other health issues. This falls under Category 2 hazards.

Noise Pollution: Improper installation or maintenance can cause combustion appliances to produce excessive noise, contributing to noise pollution, a Category 2 hazard.

In summary, gas safety issues in properties with Category 1 or 2 hazards can severely affect habitability and pose serious health and safety risks.

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.

Properties with:

  • 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

Lighting

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

Noise

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.

Explosions

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.