Housing standards for private rented accommodation

We appreciate that regulation of the private rented sector is a complex area of the law and that this can leave landlords and tenants confused as to what is required to ensure that a property supports good health and wellbeing. This page will explain what laws and systems we apply to ensure that private rented accommodation supports the Council's wider aim of health improvement. If the issues below do not answer your question, please get in touch with us.

I'm a tenant - what happens when I complain to you?

Officers inspecting a property will use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) to assess housing conditions which utilises a risk assessment approach. Please refer to the guide in the downloads section for more info. The vast majority of surveys we carry out are in response to a complaint by a tenant about their housing conditions. It is important to note that the Housing Act 2004, requires us to carry out a survey of the property as a whole and not simply to consider the matter being complained about.

Housing conditions within properties can result in hazards to the occupier(s) and also visitors to the premises. Some hazards can affect all ages of the population and other hazards have more of a detrimental effect on a specific age group. Risk assessments are always carried out from the perspective of the most at risk group being in occupation - this method is prescribed in the guidance for the HHSRS. There are 29 separate hazards specified in the system and we will assess disrepair under the hazard categories provided. If you would like to find out further information regarding this, you can read our short guide on the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (see downloads). Example HHSRS risk assessments are provided here, courtesy of DASH services. Following the assessment of a property under the HHSRS, Housing Enforcement officers have legal power to intervene to bring about an improvement in standards. You can find out more about when and why we do this on our enforcement of standards page.

Occasionally officers may use powers outside of the Housing Act 2004 to deal with complaints. These may include power relating to statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act (1990), Section 80 & the Building Act 1984. This legislation does not rely upon risk assessments but rather the officer's judgement as to whether or not the matter being inspected is serious enough for be prejudicial to health or a nuisance (these are legally defined terms dependent on years of case law). We can use these powers to cause a landlord to address an issue where they are legally responsible for it. Legal responsibilities for repair are covered on our repairs page.

What about fire safety?

It's vitally important that landlords consider the risk posed by fire in their property. This will be relatively simple for small single let property and more complex for HMOs. We have produced two web pages to assist landlords in complying with their obligations:

What are the gas safety requirements for my property?

There is a legal requirement on landlords to ensure that gas fittings and flues are in good order. This requirement is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In order to meet their legal duty, landlords must:

  • Make sure an annual gas safety check is carried out on all appliances (e.g. boilers, fires, cookers, water heaters), flues and pipe work provided by the landlord. Make sure safety checks are carried out by a Gas Safe registered contractor registered to carry out the works requested.
  • Ensure a record is kept for two years
  • Make sure evidence is provided to all tenants within 28 days of the checks
  • Make sure new tenants are provided with a gas safety record

Landlords are not responsible for the maintenance of installations and appliances owned by tenants and flues solely provided for these appliances. You can check whether a contractor is registered on the Gas Safe register web site or by telephoning 0800 408 5500. You can also request a free gas safety check. Please click here for the HSE's landlord gas safety page which will provide more in depth information .

If you can smell gas, please contact National Grid on 0800 111 999. Please note gas safe engineers working on behalf of national grid may disconnect appliances or your supply if they are concerned about safety. They will not fix the appliance. If you are left without heating following disconnection on safety grounds, we can help. Please contact us using the disrepair report form on our disrepair page

If you are the person having control of a licensed private rented property within Doncaster and gas is supplied to the house, you are legally required to produce to the local housing authority annually for their inspection a gas safety certificate obtained in respect of the house within the last 12 months. 

If your property is not required to be licensed, you are still required to obtain an annual gas safety certificate, but there is no need for you to submit a copy of this to Doncaster Council unless requested to do so.

You can find further information on submitting your gas safety certificate on our web page Licensed properties- How to submit your annual gas safety certificate

What about carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is an odourless, tasteless and invisible gas, however it can be deadly. It is a by product from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels such as natural gas. If there is incorrect mixing of the fuel and oxygen in the air, carbon monoxide can be produced. In the UK approximately 30 people a year die from CO poisoning. Meeting the gas safety requirements identified in the tab above, will go along way to minimising the risk posed by CO, however we also recommend the installation of a CO detector. The law only requires a CO detector in rooms where there is a solid fuel burning appliance.

As part of a routine property inspection, you should look for:

  • Gas flames which are not blue and starting show an orange tinge
  • Sooty or black stains on appliances or on the wall above appliances
  • Tenants complaining of prolonged flu like symptoms (headache, dizziness, fatigue etc). 


Should you notice any of the above, contact your landlord or gas safe engineer immediately & turn off the appliance in question. 

What about standards implied through landlord licensing?

The Council is responsible for the operation of three licensing schemes; mandatory HMO licensing, additional licensing of HMOs and selective licensing in Edlington - click here for our main property licensing page. Regulation of standards is stricter when a property is covered by a licence which will require you to do certain things to ensure your property is safe and well managed. Councils have discretion concerning how they apply standards through licensing and our conditions have been approved by elected members.

Some of our conditions are mandatory conditions, meaning that the Government has made it law that we must apply them to certain licences. This can include conditions relating to smoke detection, gas safety and waste for example. There are proactive inspection regimes for all the licensing schemes in Doncaster however we will also attend in response to a complaint. It's important to remember that failing to comply with a condition is illegal although unless the matter is very risky and involves a high degree of negligence, we will seek to work with landlords to achieve compliance. See our enforcement page for more information about how we make legal decisions

What about electrical safety?

The requirements for electrical safety in privately rented accommodation are changing on 1st June 2020. Please visit our electrical safety page to find out more. Landlords are responsible for PAT testing appliances they provide to tenants in HMO accommodation.

What about standards and the law in relation to tenancy management?

Certain steps must be followed when starting a tenancy in the private rented sector. There is also legislation relating to ending a tenancy and requirements around deposits. Please visit our tenancy management page to find out more.

Are there different standards to be met in HMOs?

Yes. HMOs are subject to separate regulations and licensing conditions in some circumstances. In Doncaster, we have adopted our own HMO standards which guide landlords as to the standards we expect to met. Please use the following links to find out more:

HMO licensing
HMO page
HMO fire safety

Is my property overcrowded?

If your accommodation is too small for your household you may, by law, be considered to be living in overcrowded conditions. Your home may be in breach of the legal standard if there is not enough space or rooms for the number of people who live in the property. There are currently two applicable standards in force:

  • The Statutory Overcrowding Standard under the Housing Act 1985.  
  • The crowding and space standard, assessed under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System

Under the Statutory Overcrowding Standard, overcrowding can be caused by too many people living in a dwelling, and is dependent on the size of the habitable rooms. If two people of the opposite sex have to sleep in the same room the accommodation will be overcrowded unless the two people are:

  • A married or cohabiting couple, or
  • At least one occupant is under ten years old.

The number of people of the same sex - unless they are a same sex couple - who can sleep in one room is restricted by its size. Rooms that are counted as space for sleeping include living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and the living area of an open-plan kitchen/living room. For the space and floor area calculations:

Children under one year old are discounted (0 persons)
Children aged from one to 10 count as a half a person
Anyone aged over 10 counts as one person

As a general rule:

  • 1 room = 2 people
  • 2 rooms = 3 people
  • 3 rooms = 5 people
  • 4 rooms = 7.5 people
  • 5 or more rooms = 2 people for each room

The floor area of a room also determines how many people can sleep in it:

  • Floor area 110 sq feet (10.2 sq metres approx) = 2 people
  • Floor area 90 - 109 sq ft (8.4 - 10 sq m approx) = 1.5 people
  • Floor area 70 - 89 sq ft (6.5 - 8.3 sq m approx) = 1 person
  • Floor area 50 - 69 sq ft (4.6 - 6.4 sq m approx) = 0.5 people.

Overcrowding may also be assessed under the Crowding and space hazard which is one of the 29 hazards as detailed in the HHSRS. The guidance outlines the ideal where, depending on the gender mix: “a dwelling with one bedroom is suitable for up to two people regardless of age; two bedrooms for up to four people; three for up to six people; and four for up to seven people. Living rooms and kitchens are also considered. Whether a dwelling is actually overcrowded depends on the age and circumstances of the family in it.” A dwelling may not match the ideal, but unless it results in a Category 1 hazard being identified, our decision to act is discretionary. If you think you or your family are living in overcrowded conditions, contact us and we will try to help you. We may be required to remedy 'statutory overcrowding' through the service of a legal notice on the property owner.

Is smoking permitted in private rented accommodation?

In most cases, restrictions on smoking in rental accommodation are contractual matters which should be agreed between landlords and tenants.  Properties that are rented to exclusive occupiers i.e. bedsits, flats and houses can be smoked in, unless the tenancy agreement states otherwise.  However, in properties with communal areas e.g. HMOs, there are situations where smoking is banned by law.

The Smoke Free laws apply to the common parts of an HMO building if the common parts are:

  • open to the public, or
  • used as a place of work by more than one person (even if the persons who work there do so at different times, or only intermittently)

Common parts include entrance lobbies, stairwells, lifts, corridors plus any facilities/areas shared by the occupants of more than one household. So, for example, if the property is split into bedsits, the common parts would include any kitchens, bathrooms or living/dining areas that are shared by more than one household.

The wording 'open to the public' implies that there is open access to the public through an unlocked door. Therefore a block of flats with an open entrance or unlocked communal entrance door would be considered 'open to the public' and the smoke free legislation would apply. However, any residential property with a locked front door either controlled manually or via a door entry system would be considered private.

If the common parts of the building are not open to the public, the smoke free legislation will apply if the common parts are used as a place of work by more than one person (including voluntary work). This could apply to workers such as cleaners etc. who are specifically employed to work in the common parts of the residential property.  The question of whether the common parts are used as a place of work by more than one person will be a question of fact and degree.  If entry to the common parts is irregular or ad-hoc (such as parcel deliveries, fast food deliveries, supermarket shopping deliveries, house removal firms and estate agents) it will be discounted as work.



Last updated: 10 May 2021 10:04:49