Renting a safe home

All homes need to meet certain standards to ensure that they do not represent a risk to health and safety.

Landlords should provide tenants with a property that provides a safe and healthy environment to live in. That means regularly reviewing the condition of the property and carrying out repairs when needed.

This guide will help you know what to look out for in the property you are renting to ensure that it is safe to live in, and won’t affect your health or that of your family.

Damp and mould

Caused by dampness and high humidity, damp and mould can cause respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies or asthma.

If not tackled they can also affect the immune system particularly in young children.

Look out for damp patches on walls and ceilings, mould, peeling wallpaper and condensation on windows. Does the property smell musty? Check the property is well ventilated, do the windows open?

Excess Heat and Cold

If a home is consistently too cold, this can lead to flu, pneumonia and bronchitis; heart attacks or strokes, hypothermia and even death. A cold home is one that cannot be economically maintained at temperatures of between 18°C to 21°C.

Likewise, excess heat can be a risk to health where a property is excessively hot. This has the potential to cause dehydration, stroke and heart attacks, breathing difficulties and infections. This is more likely to affect the elderly.

When viewing the property, ask for a demonstration of the central heating. Is it working properly and do the heating controls work?

If there is no central heating is there an alternative type of adequate heating?

Pollutants

Materials containing asbestos are generally safe if they are in good condition, but it they are damaged or broken they can release fibres and dust into the air that can cause pleural disease; lung cancer or mesothelioma. Your landlord should seek professional advice on its removal.

Pesticides and other chemicals used to treat timber mould growth and pests can cause breathing difficulties and skin diseases.

Gas from cookers or heaters escaping into the atmosphere in the property can cause suffocation and explosion. Carbon Monoxide and other gases can be extremely toxic and cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, bronchitis and breathless and asphyxiation.

When viewing the property, check that the appliances are properly installed and maintained.

Ask to see the Gas Safety Certificate. If there are gas appliances in the property, the landlord has to have an annual gas safety check carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer. It can also be a good idea to ask for a carbon monoxide alarm to be installed.

Dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde can be found in a variety of materials around the home, such as air fresheners and can be unpredictable at room temperature. They can cause allergies, irritation, headaches, nausea, dizziness and drowsiness.

Lead from paint or water/waste pipes has the potential to cause nervous disorders, mental health and behavioural problems in children.

In certain parts of the country, there is a risk to health from exposure from Radon Gas and you can find more details here www.ukradon.org.

Space, Security, Light and Noise

Crowding and inadequate space risks infections, accidents and the spread of contagious diseases.

Factors to consider when deciding whether there is adequate space in the property include the size of living rooms, kitchens and other recreational space. Walk through the property, is there enough room for beds and furniture? There should be adequate living area for sleeping and normal household life.

Check windows for locks and the front door for break-in signs. The fear risk of intruders or unwanted entry can cause stress, and anguish.

Lack of lighting in a property can cause depression, eyestrain and vitamin D deficiency. When you walk through the property, remember to note whether there is adequate light.

Noise caused by inadequate sound insulation can cause sleep disturbance; poor concentration, headaches and anxiety. Listen for noise from neighbours and roads. If you can, try to get a second viewing at a different time of day.

Hygiene, sanitation and water supply

Poor hygiene, pests and refuse can lead to stomach upsets, infection and diseases, asthma and allergies.

If white goods are included, check they're working.

The property should be free from cracks, holes or voids that would allow the entry or shelter of pests. There should be adequate provision for the storage of rubbish. Look out for mice droppings and ask about refuse collection especially in any shared communal areas.

The property should have an adequate water supply and drinking water should be supplied from the mains. Check the plumbing: flush toilets and turn taps on, check cupboards underneath sinks are dry, check water pressure and that the water gets hot.

Accidents

Electrical hazards caused by faulty wiring and old sockets can lead to shocks, burns and even death. Electrical installations should be safe and in a good state of repair. If you can, turn lights on and off, especially with older switches. Check that plug sockets are not loose.

Cookers, heaters and other electrical appliances should be situated away from flammable materials and ideally in the middle rather than the end of kitchen units. They should also be regularly maintained and tested. This will also reduce the risk of fire. You should be particularly concerned about this if you have children under 5 years.

When viewing the property, double check that the cooker located in a safe position. Is there a fire safety blanket in the kitchen? Is there a working smoke detector?

Think about how easy would it be to escape in the event of a fire?

Falls can cause physical injuries such as cuts and bruising. Trips can be associated with baths, showers, stairs and low balconies. Check that the floors and paths are in good condition and free from trip hazards. Do the stairs have an even tread? Can windows be firmly secured? Do balconies have a safety rail? Does the bath have a slip resistant surface?

Structural

In cases where the property has been badly maintained there is a risk of structural collapse. There is a risk of physical injury caused by falling tiles, loose windows and doors, and from a blast of debris, or collapse of a building caused by gas or water vapour.

Does the roof look in a good state of repair, are there loose tiles or leaking gutters?