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Below tolerable standard houses

Under Scottish law all houses must meet a minimum standard to be considered fit for human habitation. This is called the tolerable standard as set out in section 86 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, as amended.

If a house which is below the tolerable standard comes to the attention of the council, then the council has a legal duty to do something about it. This is usually by requiring the owner of the property to take steps, within a reasonable time period to bring the property up to the tolerable standard. However, the council does also have powers to close or even demolish properties which do not meet the tolerable standard. These would only be used in extreme circumstances.

It is not illegal to live in a house which does not meet the tolerable standard, however it is against the law to live in a house where a closure notice or demolition notice has been served. If the occupation of the property has been prohibited by law, then a council tax exemption may apply.

Officers from the Council’s environmental health team will inspect properties to see if they meet the tolerable standard. Inspections will usually be considered as being appropriate where:

  1. There has been a complaint
  2. At the request of the owner or occupier
  3. A property has been previously determined to be below the tolerable standard and the passage of time indicates it is necessary for it to be re-inspected
  4. If, in the opinion of the office, an inspection is necessary

Property owners should be aware that if they ask the council to inspect their property it may result in the council requiring works to be undertaken to bring the property up to the tolerable standard.

Inspections will not generally be considered appropriate where:

  1. The property is a construction site with active works of repair, renovation or adaptation
  2. The property is owned by the Council, unless the matter of concern has already been through the council’s official landlord complaints process

There are separate additional standards for privately rented houses called the repairing standard and for homes let by registered social landlords, including the council.

For further information contact environmental.health@orkney.gov.uk

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535

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Orkney Islands Council: BOREAS DOMUS MARE AMICUS