Landlords and letting agents have a general duty of care to ensure that the accommodation they offer for rent does not have a detrimental effect on the health, safety and welfare of their tenants.
All dwellings should provide a safe and healthy environment for occupants and visitors. The aim of this document is to help landlords meet these obligations, encourage good practice and to provide a guide to the minimum standards considered acceptable in the private rented sector as set out in the Housing Act 2004, the Regulations made under it and the ‘Decent Homes’ standard.
The Housing Act 2004 provides the method for assessing standards in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) called the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). A dwelling is risk-assessed with respect to twenty-nine health and safety hazards. These hazards are prescribed in the Operational Guidance of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
Hazards are category 1 or 2 according to the risk, category 1 being the more serious. The Department for Communities and Local Government has published a guide titled ―Housing Health and Safety Rating System – Guidance for Landlords and Property Related Professionals‖. It can be downloaded free from www.gov.uk and search for HHSRS. Alternatively, it can be purchased for £12 from DCLG Publications, PO Box 236, Wetherby LS23 7NB. Tel: 0870 1226 236, Fax: 0870 1226 237, Text phone: 0870 1207405, Email: email@example.com
Please quote ISBN 978 185 112 8563 when ordering.
In determining general standards for licensable HMOs, the Council must also have regard to SI 373 “The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) Regulations 2006”. The regulations can be found on the Office of Public Sector Information website at http://www.opsi.gov.uk by navigating the links Legislation → UK → Statutory Instruments → 2006→ 300-399 and scroll down to the link to SI373. If you do not have access to the internet, you can order copies of the regulations by telephoning TSO (The Stationery Office) on 0870 600 5522.
The standards refer throughout to ―habitable rooms‖. A habitable room is any room used for domestic purposes such as living room, dining room and bedrooms, but which is not solely a kitchen, bathroom or w/c.
Repair and maintenance
A dwelling should be maintained in a reasonable state of repair and will fail if:
One or more key building components are old and, because of their condition need replacing or major repair; or two or more other building components are old and, because of their condition need replacing or major repair. A building component can only fail to satisfy this criterion by being old and requiring replacing or repair.
Key building components are those which, if in poor condition, could have an immediate impact on the integrity of the building and cause further deterioration in other components. The list below contains some, but not all of those components. You will need to assess your property individually.
- external walls;
- roof structure and covering;
- central heating boilers;
- gas fires;
- storage heaters;
- plumbing; and
- rain water goods.
This standard can affect the assessment of all HHSRS hazards under Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004.
The Housing Act 2004 defines basic amenities as being the W.C. the bathroom and the kitchen facilities.
In assessing the suitability of bathroom and toilet facilities, consideration will be given to various hazards including Hazard 17 – Personal Hygiene, Sanitation and Drainage.
All baths and wash hand basins must be equipped with taps providing an adequate supply of potable cold water and a constant supply of hot water and be properly connected to the drainage system.
All bathrooms must be situated in a proper room, must be suitably and adequately heated and ventilated (see Ventilation guidance notes on page 10) and must be of an adequate size and layout.
Adequate electric lighting, that is appropriately Index Protection (IP) rated in accordance with IEE regulations, must be provided and walls and floors must have a non-porous and easily-cleanable finish.
Suitable locking mechanisms must be fitted to the access doors of bathrooms and W/Cs to ensure privacy.
Where a bathroom is in a house likely to be occupied by children five years of age or under, the facilities must include a bath.
Toilet compartments must be located within 30 metres of the furthest occupancy using it, preferably on the same floor. Where this is not possible, the WC should be no more than one floor and no more than 30m distance from the users.
The room should be provided with adequate ventilation (see Ventilation guidance notes on page 10) and electric lighting and a suitable locking mechanism must be fitted to the access door to ensure privacy.
All foul waste within the building must be adequately connected to the drainage system, with provision of rodding eye and inspection chamber.
A separate w/c must contain:
- A fixed w/c with water supply to the cistern, and foul drainage to the external foul drainage
- A fixed wash hand basin with constant hot and cold running water, properly connected to the drainage
In bedsit type accommodation or shared houses, the bathroom and W.C. facilities may be shared between the occupants. There must be an adequate number of bathrooms and W.C.s provided for the number of persons occupying the dwelling. The table below shows the permitted sharing ratios.
Wash hand basins
A wash hand basin (WHB) with a tiled splash back and satisfactory supply of cold and constant hot water properly connected to the drainage system must be situated in a bathroom or shower room containing a w/c.
A wash hand basin as described above must also be provided in a separate w/c compartment.
Table 1 – Bathroom and WC sharing ratio
If meals are provided for 4 or more residents you are required to register with environmental health service’s commercial unit. You can down-load the registration form from www.liverpool.gov.uk/Environment/Food_quality_and_production/Registration/ind ex.asp or phone 233 3000 or FAX 225 6039 and request one.
In assessing the provision of kitchen facilities and associated refuse storage, the council must have regard to the presence of any health and safety hazards.
Where shared kitchens are provided they must contain the following facilities: For up to 5 persons:
- A suitable fixed worktop, not including the draining board, no less than 2m by 6m
- Four cooking rings, oven and grill (whether integrated into one appliance or separates).
- Four twin 13amp power socket outlets above the work surface height in addition to any sockets serving major electrical appliances. They must be adjacent to the work surface and at a suitable safe distance of minimum 1 metre, from any sink/wash
- A standard 1m sink unit and integral draining board fixed within a base unit, together with an adequate supply of constant hot water and wholesome cold drinking water, and tiled splash back. The sink unit must be properly plumbed into the water supply and drainage
- A suitable storage cupboard with a minimum capacity equivalent to a 500mm wall unit per
- A refrigerator of not less than 5 cu ft capacity (0.15m³).
Kitchens should not normally be shared by more than 5 persons. The kitchen or kitchen area should have a total floor area not less than 7m² (measured wall to wall), and should be not less than 1.8m across at the narrowest point.
However, if a kitchen is to be shared by more than five persons, an additional 1.0 m2 of floor space for each additional person will be required, up to a maximum of ten persons, (i.e. 10m² is deemed adequate for 8-10 persons) and an adjacent dining area of suitable size must be provided.
Where the minimum kitchen size described above for 6-10 persons is not practicable, additional kitchens must be provided, in the following ratio:
- 6 – 10 persons 2 kitchens
- 11 – 15 persons 3 kitchens
Additional facilities for 6-10 persons sharing a single kitchen must include the following:
- A suitable fixed worktop, not including the draining board, of no less than 3m by 0.6m, instead of the 2m worktop for a single set of kitchen
- Fridge/freezer to approximately 9 cu ft capacity 0.27m3, instead of 5 cu ft as above.
No kitchen must have more than two sets of facilities or be used by more than ten persons. Additional food storage, cooking facilities, sink/drainers or alternative arrangements should be agreed with the council prior to installation.
Consideration may be given to the provision of a dishwasher in place of one of the additional sinks/drainers.
Table 2 – Kitchen Sharing Ratios
Shared kitchens should ideally be sited no more than 30 metres distant from any letting using it, and on the same floor. Where this is not possible, a kitchen no more than one floor distant from any letting using it and with an adequately-sized adjacent dining area may suffice.
Where more than one kitchen is provided, these should normally be on separate floors.
All kitchens must have a suitable layout which is safe and practical, taking account of the location of cooking appliances and food preparation areas to reduce the risk of health and safety hazards. In particular:-
- Cooking appliances should, wherever practicable, have an adjacent work surface;
- No soft furnishings are to be within 600 mm of the cooking appliance;
- Other than an extractor hood, no fixtures or fittings are to be sited directly above cooking
- Collision and entrapment hazards, particularly risks associated with hot
In bedsit type accommodation where the units of accommodation have their own kitchen facilities or in self-contained flats, each unit of accommodation must contain the following:
- A suitably sized sink and drainer provided with a supply of wholesome cold drinking water and constant hot water, properly connected to the drainage
- A cooker with two cooking rings, oven and grill (four ring cooker with two persons sharing).
- A twin 13amp power socket outlet in addition to any sockets serving major electrical appliances. The must be adjacent to the work surface and at a suitable safe distance minimum 1metre from any sink/wash
- A suitable worktop, not including the draining board, no less than 1m by 6m.
- A storage cupboard which must be suitable and of a minimum capacity equivalent to a 500mm wide wall unit per
- A refrigerator of not less than 5 cu ft capacity (0.15m³).
The kitchen facilities should be situated in a distinct ‗kitchen area‘ and this area should, where practicable, be located as far from the exit door as possible. Where it is not practicable for the cooking appliance to be located remotely from the door, a fire-resisting screen of suitable height should be constructed to shield the door from flames in the event of a fire occurring in the kitchen area.
In order to prevent pest infestations or the contamination of food or food preparation areas there should be suitable and sufficient provision for the storage of household waste prior to removal to refuse storage area (see Refuse Storage & Disposal guidance notes on page 21).
It is important that drinking water supplies are wholesome as disease can spread from contaminated sources e.g. storage tanks.
All dwellings should have at least one tap providing a potable water supply. This will usually be located in the kitchen
Water supplies including all associated pipe work, fittings and water pressure should be adequately maintained to ensure a good supply at an adequate pressure.
The water supply must not be unreasonably interrupted.
There should be sufficient natural light during daylight hours to habitable rooms to enable normal domestic tasks to be carried out without eyestrain.
Windows should be of adequate size, shape and position to allow daylight to penetrate into rooms. The minimum level of natural light can be achieved by providing windows of 1/10th of the room floor area.
Artificial light should be sufficient to enable domestic and recreational activities to be carried out without eyestrain.
Adequate artificial lighting should be provided to common parts such as hallways and staircases. This should be adequately sited and provide sufficient level of control. Time switches in common parts are generally acceptable provided there are adequate time intervals to allow occupants to pass safely between illuminated areas.
The provision of adequate heating throughout a property is considered under Hazard 2 (excess cold) and Hazard 3 (excess heat) of the operational guidance of the HHSRS.
In assessing the deficiencies that may give rise to such hazards, an inspection of the property will examine the thermal efficiency of the building with regard to heat loss through the external walls and roof; the size, extent and design of any fixed heating and ventilation systems; and any disrepair that may contribute to these hazards.
Where the house is not provided with central heating to the whole of the dwelling, it must be adequately and efficiently heated with the provision of permanent, fixed heating appliances or space heaters. Any heating system should be appropriate to the design, layout and construction of the building and provide adequate heat output to efficiently heat the whole of the property.
Any heating system should be economical and capable of achieving a healthy indoor temperature of 21ºC for each habitable letting room, and 18ºC in all other rooms and common areas.
Any form of heating must be controllable by the occupier and safely and properly installed and maintained.
In properties where the heating is centrally controlled, such systems should be operated to ensure that occupants are not exposed to extreme indoor temperatures, and should be provided with controls to allow the occupants to regulate the temperature within their dwelling.
Coin-operated heating and/or hot water systems in common rooms and common parts are not acceptable.
Adequate ventilation removes excess moisture that can contribute to condensation and pollutants. Inappropriate and or inadequate ventilation can contribute to the hazards damp and mould, excess cold, excess heat and pollutants.
The dwelling should be able to cope with normal occupant activities that may produce excess moisture, without persistently high relative humidity. There should be provision for the safe removal of moisture-laden air during peak production. This should include extraction during cooking or bathing, either by mechanical means, passive stack ventilation, or a combination of both, and direct venting of clothes drying facilities (whether tumble driers or drying cabinets) to the exterior.
There should be sufficient and appropriate means of ventilation to deal with moisture generated by normal domestic activities without the need to open windows. Opening windows can result in heat loss, noise, and may be a security risk. Provision for background ventilation may be necessary via trickle vents in replacement windows, insertion of high-level airbricks, or by a passive stack or a MHRV system.
Such hazards can be reduced or eliminated as follows:
Kitchens and bathrooms:
- Mechanical extract ventilation should be provided in kitchens and bathrooms in accordance with Approved Document F of the Building
- By the provision of mechanical extract ventilation that is automatically controlled with a humidistat switch or a minimum 15 minute overrun facility; fans should be wired to the lighting switch and be capable of giving a minimum of 4 air changes per hour. The minimum extraction rate is 60 litres of air per second for kitchens and 15 litres per second for
- Mechanical ventilation MUST be provided in bathrooms and kitchens where there is no natural
- By the provision of background ventilation to window frames (trickle vents) or external walls (air bricks) with an area of 8000mm². All such vents must be controllable by the
Living rooms and bedrooms:
- Rapid ventilation, i.e. opening windows must have openings of no less than 1/20th of the floor
- Background ventilation to window frames (trickle vents) or external walls (air bricks) with an area of 8000mm². All such vents must be controllable by the occupier.
- In habitable rooms where the ventilation is naturally restricted (e.g. basements), a minimum floor to ceiling height of 2.13m (7ft) is required. In all habitable rooms the opening window and other ventilation openings should normally extend to 1.75m above the floor
Crowding and Space Standards
Space standards and overcrowding are addressed by Hazard 11 (crowding and space) of HHSRS.
Shortage of space and overcrowding can increase the risks associated with other hazards, i.e. falls, collisions, burns and scalds, and fire. Therefore sufficient space is required to enable the household to safely utilise all facilities within the dwelling.
Tables 3 to 7 below describe the minimum space requirements for general property configurations. They are for general guidance only and adequate room sizes will be assessed on individual merits. However, where such an assessment has identified a crowding and space hazard, consideration will be given for compliance where there is an existing tenancy agreement, at the expiry of the tenancy or where the tenancy agreement is for longer than 12 months, action must be taken to obtain possession to ensure compliance.
The HMO must not be overcrowded. Sleeping accommodation must ensure adequate privacy. Any sharing of the sleeping accommodation will be dependant on the size of the room and the relationship of those sharing. Children over the age of 10 years old can share a sleeping room only with other child/children of the same sex.
Sleeping accommodation will be in the form of single or double rooms and each room must be occupied by a single household i.e. related persons such as husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister etc. This also includes co-habiting couples and same sex couples. This means that a landlord cannot place two unrelated persons in a room unless those persons have agreed between themselves, and without coercion, to share a room which is large enough for two persons.
Typically, friends might choose a property with this sharing in mind but, should one of them choose to leave, the landlord cannot place another person to share the room with the remaining person from the original sharers.
Every room used as a sleeping room should be at least capable of accommodating together with activity space for each item:
- a bed
- a wardrobe, which may be built-in, or cupboard of adequate
- a chest of drawers
Useable space is space that can be used for everyday activities, such as dressing, eating and recreation. The amount of useable space required will depend on whether or not communal living space is available.
Certain areas of the floor space may not be counted for the purposes of calculating useable space e.g. the space occupied by the alcoves either side of a chimney breast or the space needed to open a door in a narrow corridor.
Any floor area which does not have a minimum floor to ceiling height of 1.5m will normally be discounted from the room area calculation. Where rooms do not meet the standard, discretion may be exercised if there are compensatory factors. The HMO team should be contacted for advice in such circumstances.
Space Standards for Student Houses and Bedsits
Table 3 Minimum bedroom sizes in bedsits and student accommodation where kitchen facilities are shared
Table 4 Minimum bedroom sizes in bedsits and student accommodation where kitchen facilities are located within bedrooms
Table 5 Minimum communal space sizes
Space Standards for Self-Contained Flats
Table 6 Minimum non-sleeping room sizes
Table 7 Minimum bedroom sizes
Gas and Electricity Supplies
All gas supplies, distribution pipe-work and gas fired appliances must comply with the relevant gas safety regulations.
All gas appliances must have an annual gas safety check undertaken by a GAS SAFE registered gas installer. A copy of the gas safety record must be made available to the occupier in accordance with the regulations.
All gas appliances should be serviced and maintained regularly in accordance with regulations and manufacturers instructions (usually every 12 months).
The property manager MUST keep the previous two years gas safety records available for inspection upon request.
All work to any gas appliances must be carried out by a suitably qualified gas engineer.
Where occupants need to operate controls for gas fired central heating or hot water systems, simple and precise instructions for their safe and efficient use must be available.
An emergency control valve must be provided within 500mm of the gas meter that all occupants can easily access.
Further guidance on provision and control of heating systems can be found in section on space heating.
In HMOs the increased number of occupants can impose a significant extra load on the power and lighting circuits. The capacity of these circuits must therefore be sufficient to maintain safe use.
All electrical installations including fixed equipment must be installed and maintained in accordance with the most recent version of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) Regulations.
Any new installations or alterations to existing installations must be done in accordance with Document P of the current Building Regulations. For all such works you are also required to contact the council‘s Building Control section – telephone 0151 233 3021.
All electrical installations must be inspected and tested in accordance with the IET Regulations, currently at least every 5 years, and the results recorded in an appropriate register. It is recommended that each system is fully checked on the commencement of a new tenancy.
Any electrical installation and or alterations must be carried out by a suitably qualified electrical engineer (Registered with a UKAS approved competent persons scheme).
The risk of a fire occurring and the harm a fire could cause is increased in multiple occupied dwellings. Therefore measures must be taken to reduce the levels of risk to occupiers in the event of fire.
The strategy to reduce the risk of harm to the occupiers in the event of a fire has two main components. The first is to give the occupants early warning of a fire occurring and the second is to provide a means of escaping from any room in the house to a place of safety (Protected Route).
There is no ‗one size fits all‘ approach to fire safety in HMO‘s. The vast number of variations in the layout, type of building, the occupants etc. means that a risk based approach is required. There are of course some general guidelines for some categories of property which will be discussed in this document, but to determine the finer details of the levels of protection required, the risks associated with each individual will need to be assessed.
We stress again that the following information is not a schedule of works; it is a guide on the general requirements. You will need to carry out more in-depth research and in the back of this guide you will find links to useful sources of information. The Council may be able to advise you but please be aware that we cannot make advisory visits to the property.
Be as accurate as possible in your assessment of the property and try to avoid categorizing the risks lower than they are in order to save costs. This may end up costing more in the long run if the Council finds that the risks are not adequately reduced.
Should the property have been converted and meet with the full requirements of Part B of Building Regulations post 1991 for structural separation and early warning alarm systems (all of which is completed with relevant certificates), then no further fire precaution works will be required.
The Council‘s fire precaution standards generally require:
- An automatic fire detection system conforming to BS5839; Part 6: 2004
- A non-maintained Emergency Lighting system conforming to BS5266 Part 1:1999
- Half-hour fire resistance to all walls and ceilings throughout (including basement ceilings), in order to achieve adequate fire separation between units of accommodation and compartmentation of the means of
- Fire doors fitted and certified as capable of achieving full half hour fire resistance in conjunction with their frames. All doors should be rendered and maintained self- closing and close fitting. Provide intumescent strips and smoke seals as required. All fire door components must comply with BS476:1987 (Part31 (1)). The installation and maintenance of all fire doors must be in compliance with BS8214:1990 Code of Practice for fire doors with non-metallic leaves.
- Fire blankets in containers to BS6575:1985 in the kitchens. These should be positioned approximately 1.5m above floor
- Gas and electricity distribution panels, meters and fuse boxes in the common parts must be enclosed to give half hour fire resistance, and provided with a lockable door. Affix a standard blue disc ‘FIRE DOOR KEEP SHUT’
- Occupants must be able to exit the house from any room without the need to use a
- Additionally, fire extinguishers may be provided if tenants are to be instructed on their correct use; in which case they should be nine-litre water type, 13A rating, to BS EN3: 1996 and placed on every landing on the common staircase. They should be mounted on wall brackets, with the top of each extinguisher approximately one metre above floor
Table 8 below provides some examples of typical property types and the fire precautions that would be appropriate. These examples are however very generalized and should be used for guidance only. The risks associated with each individual property will need to be assesses and the appropriate measures taken accordingly.
Emergency Escape Windows
A room from which the only escape route is through another room is an ―inner room‖. The room through which you have to pass is the ―access room‖. Inner rooms should not be used as bedrooms because there is a much greater risk to the occupants should a fire start in the access room. This situation could arise, for example, where a bedroom is accessed from a living room.
An inner room situation can be overcome by the provision of an emergency escape window or door leading to an alternative escape route.
Escape windows must enable a person to reach a place of safety free from danger from fire and are therefore generally provided to ground floor windows only. However escape windows may be provided to first floor rooms, provided that the distance from the window cill to external ground level does not exceed 4.5 metres. Such rooms should only be occupied by persons physically capable of escaping via this route.
The escape window should have an unobstructed openable area that is at least 0.33m2 and at least 450mm high and 450mm wide (the route through the window may be at an angle rather than straight through).The bottom of the openable area should be not more than 1100mm above the floor.
Keys for escape windows MUST always be kept either in the lock or in a specially designated and clearly-signed location as close as possible to the window itself.
Where there is an inner room, a hard wired smoke/heat detector must be located in the access room, which is interlinked with the appropriate fire alarm system in the building.
Fire Safety Provisions
Table 8 Fire Precautions
This covers keeping a dwelling secure against unauthorised access and the deterrence of intruders by considering the use of window locks or deadlocks, burglar alarms, security lighting etc.
In particular all ground floor and other accessible windows should be protected by the provision of suitable window locks or other appropriate security measures. In the case of key operated window locks, such keys must be so located as to be readily available at all times.
The front and rear doors must be of sound construction and be well maintained. Outward-opening doors must have hinge bolts fitted.
The front door must be fitted with a suitable viewer where the door is not fitted with a vision panel.
The front door should be provided with a suitable safety chain.
Front and rear final exit doors must be provided with a secure lock. Those doors fitted with a lock, including final exit doors forming part of the means of escape, must be capable of being opened from the inside without the use of a key. In addition, the rear door is to be provided with a barrel bolt (200mm min) unless the door is fitted with a shoot bolt locking mechanism (3 or 5 point locking).
Where electronic door entry systems are provided, these must be in good working order and regularly maintained.
Where necessary or appropriate, pedestrian routes to the main entrance of the property should be fitted with adequate security lighting.
Where the property is fitted with an alarm, key holder details should be notified to the Council‘s Public Protection Division.
Refuse Storage and Disposal
Poorly stored food and other household waste will attract pests which could contaminate other food sources and pose a risk to the health and safety of the occupants. In order to minimise the hazards posed by household refuse there must be suitable and sufficient provision for the storage of household waste awaiting collection.
There should be refuse storage within the dwelling that is readily accessible to the occupants and sited so as not to be a danger to children, or cause problems with hygiene and attract pests.
There should be adequate provision of external refuse storage areas which should be adequately ventilated and capable of being readily cleansed. Any such areas must be sited so as not to allow air from the store to enter any living space.
Notices on the refuse collection arrangements should be placed in the common areas of the property.
The management regulations‘ are a set of statutory requirements that describe the minimum standards managers of certain HMO‘s must adhere to. Table 9 below sets out the type of HMO‘s to which the management regulations apply. Where such regulations apply it is a statutory requirement to comply with these regulations.
Table 9 Management Regulations
Disclaimer – This information has been provided by Liverpool City Council as of January 2021.