Tolerable Standard Group: Recommendations

The paper sets out the recommendations of local authority housing and environmental health officers on changes to the tolerable standard. These recommendations will inform a public consultation which we will publish later this year.

The Tolerable Standard Group was chaired by Scottish Government Housing Standards and Quality officials, and attended by Local Authority housing and environmental health officers nominated by Scotland’s Housing Network and the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland, with additional input from the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers).  

The group met eight times between February to November 2019, carried out a survey of local authorities on the use and understanding of the Tolerable Standard, reviewed the existing Scottish Government guidance, and considered proposals for changes to the standard.

In response to the recommendations of the group, which are set out below, the Scottish Government will carry out a public consultation on changes to the tolerable standard, the basic standard for all housing, and the Scottish Government guidance that supports this standard. We will publish this consultation later this year.



1\. There should be a minimum standard for houses, as set out in key parts of the existing tolerable standard. A house that fails to meet this standard should not continue in use for accommodation until or unless the defects are rectified.

2\. The minimum standard for should be linked to a power to issue closing orders (which should not be linked directly to demolition) and other enforcement powers, and should be part of a local authorities duties for improving housing and tackling homelessness.

3\. There should be a new additional ‘habitable standard’ reflecting minimum expectations for modern, decent and safe housing, drawing on some elements of the existing tolerable standard and some additional elements. For example, the new standard could include asbestos, radon exposure, fire and smoke alarms, fixed heating systems, and a minimum standard for energy efficiency. A house that fails to meet this second standard should be brought up to standard within a reasonable period. The definition of reasonable period should not be linked to the need for accommodation in the area.

4\. The local authority should have powers to enforce compliance with the second standard, and a duty to develop a strategy to bring houses up to the standard, but intervention should be based on an assessment of risk to occupiers or other persons or to buildings. Enforcement strategy should be explicitly linked to the aim of developing a culture of maintenance among owners.

5\. It is recognised that new standards will require primary legislation, following extensive consultation, and that this will take time. However, while this is being considered, no additional elements should be added to the current tolerable standard. 

6\. Although the existing standard should not be amended in a piecemeal fashion, we recommend that the existing guidance should be reviewed to ensure that it is up-to-date and improves links between house condition policy and other strategic responsibilities of local authorities.

7\. Revised guidance should also include guidance on the skills required for local authority assessors. The guidance should recognise that decisions about the tolerable standard include whether the standard is met, follow-up and enforcement action, and consequential decisions about housing allocation and other forms of support and assistance.

8\. The review of the existing guidance should include some areas where the definition of what constitutes compliance with the tolerable standard should be revised to reflect current expectations of minimum standards in housing, particularly with reference to what meets the standard for adequate space heating and thermal insulation.

9\. The requirement that every house should have an adequate supply of wholesome water should be taken forward in any new ‘minimum’ or ‘habitable’ standards for  housing. The review of the existing guidance should provide a clear outline of the housing issues, including private water supplies and the World Health Organisation’s stated position that there is no safe level for lead in drinking water.


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