Skip to main content
Shelter Logo

The Tolerable Standard

The tolerable standard is detailed in the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987. The Act lists the criteria that a dwelling house must satisfy in order to meet the tolerable standard.

The tolerable standard is a minimum standard and applies to all residential dwellings including social and privately rented homes and owner occupied properties. The local authority can take action where a house does not meet this standard.

This content applies to Scotland

The tolerable standard

The tolerable standard criteria are detailed in section 86 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987. The criteria states that the dwelling house should:

  • be structurally stable: this provision is mainly aimed at problems of subsidence

  • be substantially free from rising or penetrating damp (it is important to note the use of the term 'substantially free', not 'completely free', and to note also that the standard does not extend to condensation dampness, although that may be covered by the next point)

  • have satisfactory provision for natural and artificial lighting, for ventilation and for heating. Adequate natural lighting under good weather conditions should be available in rooms intended for sleeping, sitting or eating meals. A test for this is whether normal domestic activities can be undertaken without the aid of artificial light. Ventilation is thought to mean that fresh air can circulate easily to all rooms

  • have satisfactory thermal insulation

  • have an adequate piped supply of wholesome water available within the house. The water supply is for domestic use [1]

  • have a sink provided with a satisfactory supply of both hot and cold water within the house

  • have a water closet, or waterless closet, available for the exclusive use of the occupants of the house and suitably located within the house. The toilet should be accessible to occupants without compromising their privacy and should be adequately lit and ventilated

  • have a fixed bath or shower and a wash-hand basin, all of which must have a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water and be suitably located in the house

  • have an effective system for the drainage and disposal of foul and surface water. Factors taken into account are the capacity of the system, susceptibility to leakages or blockages and whether foul air from sewage can enter the building

  • have a supply of electricity, where electricity is supplied to the property, that complies with the relevant requirements in relation to electrical installation for that supply and is adequate and safe to use

  • have satisfactory facilities for the cooking of food within the house. This does not necessarily mean that a cooker is actually installed, but as a minimum that there is the means of installing a gas or electric appliance

  • have satisfactory access to all external doors and outbuildings. If there is no adequate means of access to a house then there may be a breach of the landlord's repairing obligation.

  • satisfactory equipment installed for detecting fire, and for giving warning of fire or suspected fire [2]

  • satisfactory equipment installed for detecting, and for giving warning of, carbon monoxide present in a concentration that is hazardous to health [3]

A house will not meet the tolerable standard if fails to fulfil one or more of the criteria above. 

('House' is defined as including a flat and any yard, garden and outhouse etc. that belongs to it or is usually enjoyed by it).

If a home fails to meet the standard

The Local Authority has statutory powers to deal with houses that do not meet the tolerable standard. See the section on Local Authority duties and powers for disrepair.  

Private tenants may have rights to raise action at tribunal as failure to meet the tolerable standard is also a breach of the repairing standard.

Further information about the tolerable standard can be found in the Scottish Government's advisory and statutory guidance.

Last updated: 1 February 2022


  • [1]

    Metropolitan Water Board v Avery [1914] AC 118

  • [2]

    s.86(1)(j) Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, amended by s.2 The Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 (Tolerable Standard) (Extension of Criteria) Order 2019 SSI 2019/8

  • [3]

    s.86(1)(k) Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, amended by s.2 The Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 (Tolerable Standard) (Extension of Criteria) Order 2019 SSI 2019/8