Repairing Standard: statutory guidance for private landlords

This guidance is for use in determining whether a house meets the standards of repair set out in the Repairing Standard (Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, Chapter 4). It applies from 1 March 2024 to all tenancies required to meet with the Repairing Standard.

Annex C: To ensure the structure and exterior of the house (including drains, gutters and external pipes) are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order

C.1 The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 section 13(1)(b) requires that the structure and exterior of the house (including drains, gutters and external pipes) are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order. Section 13(3) specifies that when determining whether the privately rented house meets the standard of repair required by section 13(1)(b), the landlord should have regard to (a) the age, character and prospective life of the house and (b) the locality in which the house is situated.

C.2 Private landlords must be satisfied that any house they rent to tenants is fit for the tenants to live in. They should be confident that the house is structurally stable as instability in the structure of a house is a threat to occupants’ safety. Private landlords must also be satisfied that the house has an effective system for the drainage and disposal of foul and surface water so their tenant(s) are living in a safe, hygienic environment.

C.3 Where a house forms part of premises incorporating more than one house (i.e. a block of flats), the private landlord will have a shared responsibility for maintaining any part of the premises which their tenant is entitled to use, see section 7 of this guidance.

C.4 This annex will give guidance on –

  • Structure of the House
  • Foul and Surface Water Drainage and Disposal
  • Taking Account of Age, Character and Locality

Structure of the house

C.5 Structural stability means that, under normal environmental conditions, the supporting fabric of the house will not move in relation to its foundations or other parts of the building, so that there is no risk of failure of any building element leading to partial or total collapse of the house.

C.6 Private landlords must have regard to all structural elements of a house. They must be confident that there are no signs of recent or fresh movement as evidence of this may indicate that the house may be at risk from either partial or total collapse. The main structural elements of a house are:

  • Roof structures and other roof features;
  • Chimneys;
  • Load-bearing walls including external walls;
  • Lintels, sills and mullions, and wall ties;
  • Floors and stairs;
  • Load-bearing beams and columns; and
  • Foundations.

C.7 A house that is structurally unstable will normally show signs that it is moving, or that a structural element is likely to fail. Some of the most common indicators of instability are:

  • Fresh cracking may show that a house has moved and may be continuing to move;
  • Movement or displacement of structural elements, such as bulging walls, sloping floors and lintels, sagging or spreading roofs, leaning chimneys;
  • Damage and deterioration to load-bearing elements; and
  • Rot and timber infestations.

These can indicate potential instability but do not necessarily mean on their own that a structural element, or the house as a whole, is structurally unstable.

Foul and surface water drainage and disposal

C.8 Private landlords must ensure the system for the drainage and disposal of foul and surface water in the house is capable of managing and disposing of wastewater and rainwater.

C.9 An effective system for drainage and disposal means a fixed and permanent system that is capable of transferring surface and foul water from the point of collection to the point of disposal. To be effective, the system must be able to cope with the volume of water to be disposed of and transfer this to an appropriate point of disposal.

C.10 Surface water is rainwater that falls on the roof of the house, or on other surfaces around the house, such as driveways and paths. Foul water is the by-product of normal domestic activities, and includes all wastewater from toilets, sinks, baths, showers and wash-hand basins.

C.11 A typical drainage system for surface water will have gutters attached to the roof at the lowest ends of each slope. Each gutter will be fixed securely to the roof and feed into a fixed connecting down-pipe. The down-pipe will continue from the gutter to at least ground level, where it will transfer the water to an appropriate drain, soakaway, or free-draining soil.

C.12 The system should be able to effectively manage the rainwater falling on the roof and other surfaces of the house. It must be able to cope with the volume of water produced during normal rainfall conditions.

C.13 The surface water drainage system will normally transfer rainwater from rooftops and other surfaces to a nearby storm drain. Storm drains carry rainwater to local rivers and streams where it enters the watercourse untreated. Some houses have combined surface and foul water systems, and the surface water is disposed of in the same way as the foul water. Houses in some rural areas do not have access to storm drains, so other arrangements will be used instead, such as a soakaway, which is acceptable, provided there is no ponding and the water drains away effectively.

C.14 Foul water drainage means pipes connecting to toilets, sinks, wash-hand basins, baths and showers. The size and gradient of the pipe-work should be sufficient to cope with the normal use of the facilities connecting to them.

C.15 The system should be fit for purpose and no gutters or pipe-work should be broken, blocked or damaged.

Taking Account of Age, Character and Locality

C.16 The structure and exterior of a house may be affected (a) by the age of the building (b) the build characteristics and (c) the nature of the locality in which it is situated. There is likely to be some natural deterioration in older properties. Specific house characteristics such as type of external wall construction may affect building performance. Houses in exposed areas are more vulnerable to the elements. All these factors can impact on the condition of a property over the longer term and private landlords should be aware of potential issues around structural stability resulting from these three factors. Two specific factors are historic cracking and foul water drainage in older buildings.

(1) Historic Cracking

C.17 Historic cracking is cracking which has occurred in the past. It shows that the house has previously moved. But this is not always evidence of current structural instability. Historic cracking may be the result of a building settling after construction, thermal expansion and contraction of the building fabric due to temperature changes or vibration from passing traffic. This does not in itself indicate that the house is still moving.

C.18 Evidence such as old cobwebs or dirt in the cracks may suggest historic cracks and that the house has not moved for some considerable time. A house with only historic cracking will not normally mean the house is structurally unstable.

(2) Foul water drainage in older buildings

C.19 Most houses will dispose of foul water to a public sewerage system. For some houses this is not possible. Alternative methods for disposing of foul water include septic tanks and private outfalls. It is acceptable for foul water to be transferred to a septic tank, provided that all pipe-work and connections are sound and not damaged, and that the septic tank is properly maintained.

C.20 Private outfalls dispose of foul water to a nearby watercourse, such as a loch, river or stream, or into the sea. Disposal of sewage by private outfall is regulated by the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2005 and these are enforced by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

C.21 Occasionally, a house may dispose of its foul water to a mass collection tank, sometimes referred to as a cesspit or cesspool, located in the garden or neighbouring land. Private landlords should be aware that houses that use this type of system are below Tolerable Standard and should not be let to private tenants. These systems differ from septic tanks in that the foul water lies untreated in the tank until it is emptied.



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