Private sector housing

Private sector housing

Here you will find information regarding private sector housing including advice about disrepair, HMO, immigration inspections and drainage.

Private sector housing

The environmental health team deals with owner-occupied and private rented properties. We are responsible for the enforcement of legislation relating to housing conditions, drainage issues and public health matters.

Private sector housing conditions
Our aim is to encourage high standards of accommodation, repair and good management in the private rented sector. Your property must meet minimum health and safety standards.

We offer a service to tenants, homeowners and landlords and we can help you with:
  • assessing the property under the health and safety rating system (HHSRS)
  • poor housing conditions, which affect your health, safety or wellbeing
  • electricity, gas or water cut offs
  • faulty heating systems
  • damp and mould growth problems including problems with condensation
  • overcrowding
  • licensing and poor conditions in houses of multiple occupation (HMO)
Repairs
When a repair is needed, tenants must first inform the landlord or managing agent as soon as possible – ideally in writing – or by phone if it is an emergency. You must give the landlord ‘reasonable time’ to carry out the repairs reported.

If the reported repairs have not been carried out within a reasonable time, even after informing your landlord, do not stop paying rent. Contact us and report your complaint to the environmental health team within our public protection department and we will aim to resolve any issues. If we cannot resolve the matter informally, we can arrange to carry out a formal inspection where enforcement action may be taken.

Telephone: 0345 600 6400Useful links - housing complaints and disrepair Where necessary, we can carry out a full housing assessment inspection. A suitable date and time will be arranged with the tenant for this inspection to be carried out. We are legally obliged to contact the landlord, owner or agent prior to the inspection.

The inspection involves an inspection into all rooms within the property and external areas. Once this has been carried out, we will assess health and safety hazards and take necessary enforcement action.

Please note, tenants are not charged for any enforcement action and the charge applies to the property owner.
Private sector housing drainage responsibilities
Private sewers and lateral drains have transferred ownership from private individuals to water and sewerage companies. The transfer includes all drains and sewers connected to the current public sewerage system. Please note:
You are still responsible for the section of pipe that only serves your property and is inside the property boundary. If a blockage occurs that is shared or outside the property, then the matter should be passed on to Northumbrian Water. If you are unsure where the blockage is located, contact Northumbrian Water:

Telephone: 0345 717 1100

If you require any further advice regarding any of the above, contact us:

Telephone: 0345 600 6400 or one of our local numbers.
Housing health & safety rating system (HHSRS)

What is the health and safety rating system?
A scoring system is used by all local authorities to risk assess the effect of certain hazards on the health, safety and wellbeing of the occupants. The system allows local authorities to take action to remedy these hazards in order to ensure housing is safe to live in.

Who does it affect?
The local authority has enforcement powers to ensure owners and landlords, including social landlords comply with the HHSRS.

What are the hazards?
There are a total of 29 hazards assessed using the HHSRS system. View the list of all hazards here. These are assessed by the inspector and scored appropriately using the rating system. This will determine whether there are any serious hazards (category one) or less serious (category two) present.

How is it enforced?
If there is a category one hazard present, there is a duty to take appropriate action. In the first instance, the council will endeavour to deal with all matters informally.

However, if unsuccessful, the council can take formal action and serve a statutory notice requiring work to be conducted. The council also has the power, where necessary, to prohibit the use of the whole, or part, of a dwelling, restrict the number of permitted occupants or take necessary action.

Where category two hazards are found, the council can still take enforcement action if there is a need. Alternatively, it may be more appropriate for a hazard awareness notice to be served. This makes the landlord, owner or agent aware of the hazard.

Appealing enforcement notices & orders
When an owner or landlord has been served with either an improvement notice or prohibition order, they have the right to appeal within 21 or 28 days respectively. 
 

Immigration inspections at private rented homes
People moving into Northumberland from a country outside the EEC have to confirm they are moving into accommodation that is of a suitable standard that will not be made overcrowded by their arrival.

A named individual normally has to sponsor the person(s) moving into the area. This sponsor is asked by the immigration authority for proof the property is suitable.

The survey is designed to ensure the accommodation meets the following criteria:
  • the minimum housing standard under the Housing Act 2004
  • is in a reasonable state of repair
  • has sufficient space to accommodate both the existing occupiers and any additional people who propose to live there
If you require an immigration inspection please contact us for an application form:
  • Telephone: 0465 600 6400
  • Alternatively, you can download the form here.
Details of current occupants and details of the person(s) moving will need to be given with all dates of birth. A current CP12 gas certificate must also be seen if there are any gas appliances in the property. There is a charge for immigration inspections carried out.
  • View a full list of charges here.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
On the 1st October 2015 new legislation was introduced requiring private landlords to comply with fire safety measures such as fitting smoke alarms to every floor with a living space and carbon monoxide alarms in any rooms with solid fuel heating appliances.  For more information on how to comply please visit this website.

Please also note that failure to comply with the regulations may result in a fine of up to £5,000.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMO)

Houses in multiple occupation are essentially shared accommodation including flats, bedsits, lodgings, B&B accommodation, student residences and hostels.

If you are letting an HMO which has more than three storeys and is rented to at least five people from more than one household, you will need a licence.

What is a HMO?

A property rented out by at least three people from more than one household who share facilities.
If you let a property which is one of the following types, it is a HMO:

  • An entire house or flat which is let to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet.

  • A house which has been converted entirely into bedsits (or other non-self-contained accommodation) and which is let to three or more tenants who form two or more households and who share kitchen, bathroom or toilet facilities.

  • A converted house which contains one or more flats which are not wholly self-contained (i.e. the flat does not contain within it a kitchen, bathroom and toilet) and which is occupied by three or more tenants who form two or more households.

In order to be a HMO, the property must be used as the tenants only or main residence and it should be used solely or mainly to house tenants.

Properties let to students and migrant workers will be treated as their main residence and the same will apply to properties which are used as domestic refuges.

What counts as a household?

The following counts as one household:
  • a single person living alone (without partners/relatives – three friends sharing would be considered as three households)
  • couples – married, unmarried or in same-sex relationships
  • relatives living together, including parents, grandparents, children and step-children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces or cousins. Half-relatives and foster parents/children are treated as full relatives.
  • any domestic staff are also included in the household if they are living rent-free in accommodation provided by the person who they are working for.
Do I need a HMO licence?
You will need a HMO licence if your property has:
  • three or more storeys
  • five or more tenants from more than one household
  • shared facilities such as kitchen, bathroom and toilet
Have a look at our ‘Is my property an HMO?’ diagram for more guidance.

Northumberland County Council can widen the remit of licensing to include smaller HMOs if we feel there is a need.

How long is the licence valid for?
The licence can be granted for up to five years. In some cases, the licence may not be granted for the full term. For example, if there are any concerns over management of the property or a history of anti-social behaviour associated with the property.

If you fail to make a timely application for a licence, then the period of time the property has been operating as an HMO without a licence may be deducted from the maximum five-year period. This is to ensure equity with those landlords who have made timely applications.
How to apply for an HMO licence
Please read the HMO application guidance before applying. When submitting the application, you will need to submit supporting documentation and payment.

HMO licence costs are detailed in the Northumberland County Councils HMO licensing policy.

How to apply
Download and complete the application form and return it to us by post, along with the required documentation:

Public Health Protection Unit
Northumberland County Council
West Hartford Fire Station
West Hartford Business Park
Cramlington
Northumberland
NE23 3JP

We will review your application and once we are satisfied, we will contact you to arrange payment. The council will also carry out checks to ensure the person applying for the licence is a fit and proper person
Licenced HMO properties in Northumberland
Click below for a list of HMO's in Northumberland.
Houses of Multiple Occupation public register