Northumberland County Council > Housing > Private sector housing

Private sector housing

Information regarding Private Sector housing including disrepair, HMO advice, immigration inspections and drainage.

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.

Our aim is to encourage high standards of accommodation, repair and good management in the private rented sector.

Your property must be dry, safe and structurally stable. It must have adequate heating, drainage, lighting, ventilation, toilet and bathing facilities. It should meet minimum health and safety standards.

We offer a service to tenants, home owners and landlords and we can help you with:


When a repair is needed, the tenant must first tell the landlord or managing agent as soon as possible - ideally in writing (keep a copy for yourself for reference) or by phone if it is an emergency.

You must give the landlord ‘reasonable time’ to carry out the repairs reported.

If the repairs you have reported have not been carried out in a reasonable time, even after informing your landlord, do not stop paying rent.  Contact us on 0345 600 6400 or use one of our local numbers and report your complaint to the Environmental Health Team within the Public Protection Department and we will try and resolve any issues between you and your landlord.  If we cannot resolve the matter informally we can arrange to carry out a formal inspection where enforcement action can be taken.

Useful links - housing complaints and disrepair

Formal inspection

Where necessary, we can carry out a full housing assessment inspection. This assessment is called a Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) 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 to advise them that a formal inspection will be carried out. The HHSRS inspection involves us inspecting all rooms within the property and all external areas. Once this inspection is carried out we will assess health and safety hazards found using the HHSRS system and take any necessary enforcement action necessary.

From 1st April 2013 a charge applies to all the Housing Act 2004 notices and orders served by the council.

Please note tenants are not charged for any enforcement action and the charge applies to the property owner. View a full list of charges here

PROPOSED INCREASES TO ENFORCEMENT CHARGES 2015/16  2016/17  Click here for further information

What is HHSRS ?

The HHSRS is a scoring system that 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 the HHSRS 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 that are assessed using the HHSRS system. View the list of all hazards here.

How is a hazard assessed?

A local authority officer will complete a full inspection of a property and base their assessment on the likelihood of the occupants suffering harm, as a direct result of the condition of the property. The hazards are then appropriately scored by the officer, using the rating system. This will determine whether there are any serious hazards (Category 1) or less serious hazards (Category 2) present.

How is it enforced?

If the local authority discovers there is a Category 1 hazard present, it has a duty to take appropriate enforcement action. In the first instance, the council will endeavor to deal with all matters informally. However, if unsuccessful the council can take formal action by serving a statutory notice requiring works to be carried out. 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 emergency action.

Where Category 2 (lower risk) hazards are found the council can still take enforcement action as per category 1 hazards if we feel there is a need. Alternatively it may be more appropriate for a hazard awareness notice to be served. A hazard awareness notice 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, he or she has the right to appeal within 21 days or 28 days respectively.

People moving into Northumberland to live from a country outside the EEC have to confirm that 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 individual or sponsor is asked by the immigration authority for proof that the property being moved into is suitable.

The survey is designed to ensure that 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 phone us on 0345 600 6400 or use one of our local numbers and we will then send you a form to complete and return to us. Alternatively, you can download the form here.

Details of the 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.

Private sewers and lateral drains have transferred ownership from private individuals to water and sewerage companies (from 1st October 2011). The transfer includes all drains and sewers that are connected to the current public sewerage system.

For more information, please go to the Northumbrian Water website.

Please note:

  • Remember you are still responsible for the section of pipe that only serves your property and is inside the property boundary.
  • If a blockage occurs in a section of pipe that is shared or outside the boundary of the property then the matter should be passed to Northumbria Water on 0345 717 1100. If you are unsure where the blockage is located then contact Northumbria Water on the number above.

If you need any other advice regarding housing condition, immigration inspections or private drainage then phone us on 0345 600 6400 or use one of our local numbers.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) are essentially shared accommodation including flats, bedsits, lodgings, B&B accommodation, student residences and hostels. If you are letting a HMO which has three of more storeys, and is rented to at least five people from more than one household, you will need a licence.

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is a property rented out by at least three people from more than one household (eg a family) who share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen.

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 (ie 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 only or 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.

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 a HMO?’ diagram for more guidance.

Northumberland County Council can widen the remit of licensing to include smaller HMO’s 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 five years e.g if there are any concerns over the management of the property, or a history of anti-social behavior associated with the property.

If you fail to make a timely application for a licence then the period of time that the property has been operating as a licensable 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.

Please read the HMO Application guidance before you apply. When you submit your application, you will need to submit supporting documentation and payment for the application.

HMO Licence costs are detailed in the Northumberland County Councils HMO Licensing Policy (PDF).

How to apply

Download and complete the HMO Application Form and return it to us by post together with the required documentation to: Public Protection, Northumberland County Council, Loansdean, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE61 2AP.

We will review your application and once we are satisfied with the application we will contact you to arrange payment. The council will also carry out checks to make sure that the person applying for the licence is a fit and proper person - find out what 'fit and proper' means here.

(Please contact us to request a printed application form).




4 Dene Street, Hexham