Scottish House Condition Survey: Key Findings 2010


5 Housing Quality

5.1 The Scottish Housing Quality Standard

96. Two quality standards are set by the Scottish Government and monitored through the Scottish House Condition Survey. The first is the tolerable standard which is a "condemnatory" standard. In other words, it is not reasonable to expect people to continue to live in a house that falls below it. The Tolerable Standard was redefined in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 and applies to all houses in Scotland. Local authorities have a statutory duty and specific powers to deal with houses that fall below the tolerable standard. The second standard is the Scottish Housing Quality Standard ( SHQS) which was announced by the Minister for Communities in February 2004. 22 A target was agreed that all social landlords must ensure that all their dwellings pass the SHQS by 2015. Private owners and private landlords are currently under no obligation to bring their properties up to a standard which meets the SHQS. However the same data is collected and reported for all dwellings to allow comparison across the housing stock.

97. The SHQS is an aggregation of the results from about 60 different programme modules aggregated into 5 higher-level classifications which in turn provide a single pass/fail classification for all dwellings. The 5 higher-level criteria are that the dwelling must be:

  • Above the statutory Tolerable Standard; 23
  • Free from serious disrepair;
  • Energy efficient;
  • With modern facilities and services;
  • Healthy, safe and secure.

98. The 2002 SHCS failure rate estimates were produced after the announcement 24 . The 2003/4 survey field work began in October 2003, before the final clarification of the SHQS in July 2004 25 . Thus, the 2002 and 2003/4 surveys did not gather all the data needed to fully assess dwellings against the SHQS. This was rectified for the 2004/5 survey and all later surveys including the 2010 survey.

99. The Tolerable Standard definition was amended by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 to include additional criteria, covering thermal performance and electrical safety 26 . As the amendment was not implemented until April 2009, the results from the 2010 survey are the first year to be based on the amended standard. The change in definition has caused the fail rate for the BTS criteria to increase from 0.7% in 2009 to 3.9% in 2010.

100. Just over 80% of the dwellings failing the BTS are in the private sector and over half are pre 1919 dwellings.

101. Cavity wall insulation ( CWI) is an SHQS energy efficiency element - and so also part of the SHQS overall pass rate. CWIs are increasingly difficult to identify over time as the injection holes age, fade or are covered up by later work, and contractors are also getting better at disguising their work. Also, more buildings in wetter areas are deemed unsuitable for CWI. The problem does not affect the energy efficiency trend but, if CWI were not an element of energy efficiency, the pass rate would be about 30% higher, i.e. 80% instead of 50%. We will carry out further work to investigate this problem.

102. About 1.4 million or 61% of dwellings in Scotland failed the SHQS in 2010 (Table 30 and Table 31). This estimate is lower than the failure rates for 2004/5 (75%), 2005/6 (72%), 2007 (68%) , 2008 (64%) and 2009 (62%) and is a statistically significant decrease over the 2004/5 and 2005/6 and 2007 figures (Figure 13).

Table 30 Scottish Housing Quality Standard 2004/05 - 2010 (000s)

TenureSHQS FlagSurvey Year
LA/other publicPass106749794106111114
All housingPass650581657736829897904
Unweighted sample size3,0903,0933,1473,0333,0153,3463,062

Table 31 Scottish Housing Quality Standard 2004/05 - 2010 (%s)

TenureSHQS FlagSurvey Year
LA/other publicPass28202624313131
All housingPass29252832363839

Figure 13SHQS pass rates 2003/04 to 2010 by Tenure (%)

Figure 13 SHQS pass rates 2003/04 to 2010 by Tenure (%)

103. Table 31 shows that in 2004/5 around 75% of dwellings failed the SHQS compared to 61% in 2010.

104. Overall the proportion of dwellings failing the SHQS in both the social and the private housing sectors has decreased from 75% in 2004/5 to 60% of private and 62% social sector dwellings failing the SHQS in 2010. Table 30 and Table 31 show the number and proportion of dwellings passing or failing the SHQS by private or social sector tenure. In 2010, 1,014,000 dwellings in the private sector and 393,000 dwellings in the social sector failed the SHQS.

Figure 14 Dwellings by failure to meet Scottish Housing Quality Standard criteria by tenure 2004/5 to 2010 (%)

Figure 14 Dwellings by failure to meet Scottish Housing Quality Standard criteria by tenure 2004/5 to 2010 (%)

105. The majority of dwellings that failed the SHQS failed on the energy efficiency criterion. Full efficient central heating 27 is a strict requirement of this criterion. Dwellings with 'inefficient' central heating, even if it is full, will fail. Also crucial is the presence of thermal insulation measures - such as loft, hot water tank and wall insulation (where applicable) - in the dwelling.

106. Due to improved data collection in 2010, we now have more detailed data on insulation to hot and cold water tanks. The improvement in the data has caused an increase in the failure rate of the hot water tank and pipe insulation element of the SHQS energy efficiency criteria, this has resulted in an increased failure rate of the energy efficiency criteria (particularly in the social sector) and a lesser improvement in overall SHQS pass rate than we might have expected.

107. The proportion of dwellings failing the modern facilities and services criterion of the SHQS has also fallen since 2004/5 in both the social and private sectors. Overall it fell from 23% in 2004/5 to 12% of dwellings in 2010 (Figure 14). The change from 2007 (19%) to 2010 (12%) is statistically significant.

108. The proportion of dwellings with more than one criterion failure has fallen since 2004/5. In 2010, 40% of dwellings failed on only one of the five higher-level criteria and 15% on two criteria. As a result, the number of failing SHQS elements (as opposed to failing properties) has reduced from about 2.6 million to 2.0 million (Table 32) 28 .

Table 32SHQS criterion failures 2004/5-2010 (000s and Column %)

No failures/ unobtainable605266923075032838369153995140
1 Failure1,02545991431,00844980429884293840
2 Failures484214562040417376163431534615
3 Failures1627162714061245904974
4 Failures24113111010080201
5 Failures101010200060
Failures sub-total1,696741,622701,564681,493641,429611,40760
Total SHQS criterion failures*2,5782,4442,2862,1561,9762,031
Total dwellings2,3011002,3151002,3141002,3311002,3441002,357100
Unweighted sample size3,0933,1473,0333,0153,3463,115

109. Table 33 shows that dwellings in rural areas are slightly more likely to fail the SHQS than in urban areas, though the difference is not significant.

Table 33SHQS urban/rural breakdown (000s and %)

sample size
Unweighted sample size2,342720

5.2 Dampness and Condensation

110. Table 34 and Table 35 indicate that just over 1 in 10 dwellings have condensation in at least one room, whilst few dwellings in Scotland suffer from either rising or penetrating damp (around 1 in 20). These figures are largely unchanged from those reported from 2002 to 2009. 'Any condensation' and 'Any rising or penetrating damp' can cover anything from a small damp patch or area of condensation on a single wall in one room (caused for example by ineffective ventilation whilst cooking) to prevalence throughout a dwelling so is not necessarily a serious housing quality issue in all cases.

Table 34 Presence of condensation in dwelling (000s and %)

Any condensation?000s%Unweighted
sample size

Table 35 Presence of rising or penetrating damp in dwelling (000s and %)

Any rising or penetrating damp?000s%Unweighted
sample size

5.3 Disrepair

111. Data on the state of disrepair of each dwelling is gathered in the physical inspection part of the SHCS. For clarification, the definition of 'disrepair' here is not the same at that measured in SHQS (section 5.1 above) which requires a property to be "free from serious disrepair" so the numbers and percentages will be different from the SHQS data 29 .

112. A range of elements - both internal and external - are assessed for the presence of disrepair, the urgency of disrepair (for external and common elements only), the extent of disrepair and in some cases the residual life of the element. These assessments allow an overall picture of the state of dwelling disrepair to be built up. We can therefore estimate the extent of disrepair of various types in Scotland's occupied housing stock. Definitions of the different types of disrepair are given in paragraph 162.

113. 'Any disrepair' covers ALL disrepair, irrespective of extent or seriousness, and can therefore mean anything from a leaking bathroom tap to a missing roof.

114. Table 36 shows the presence of 'any disrepair' by age of dwelling. Just over eighty percent (81%) of dwellings in Scotland have some disrepair. Older dwellings are more likely to have some form of disrepair with 90% of those built before 1919 having some disrepair compared with 51% of dwellings built after 1982.

115. Over three quarters (79%) of private sector dwellings have some form of disrepair, compared to 85% of dwellings in the social sector.

Table 36 Presence of any disrepair by age of dwelling, tenure and urban/rural indicator (000s and Row %)

No disrepairDisrepairTotalUnweighted
sample size
Age of Dwelling
LA/other public361033890374100483
Private Sector356211,351791,7071002,292
Social Sector991555285650100823
All Dwellings454191,903812,3571003,115
Unweighted sample size6072,5083,115

116. Levels of 'any disrepair' in urban and rural areas are about the same at around 80%.

117. For common and external elements the surveyor is asked to assess the urgency of disrepair. An urgent repair is one which, if not carried out, would cause the fabric of the building to deteriorate further and/or place the health and safety of the occupier at risk. Table 36 shows 'any disrepair' by 'urgency of disrepair'.

Table 37 'Any disrepair' by urgency of disrepair (000s and Column %)

Any urgent disrepairNo disrepairDisrepairTotalUnweighted
sample size
Not Applicable45099103555323737
Unweighted sample size6072,5083,115

118. Figure 15a-c show the presence of urgent disrepair, disrepair to critical elements and extensive disrepair in dwellings which have some form of disrepair ( i.e. dwellings which have 'any disrepair' as defined above).

119. In 'any disrepair to critical elements', the critical elements are those whose condition is central to a dwelling being wind and weather proof, structurally stable and safeguarded against further rapid deterioration. Paragraph 162 lists the critical elements. The figures for critical disrepair are shown in Table 38 against dwelling and household characteristics.

120. 'Extensive disrepair' is used to identify dwellings where the disrepair present is of relatively greater severity. A detailed definition of extensive disrepair is given in paragraph 162.

121. Urgent disrepair, extensive disrepair and disrepair to critical elements are all subsets of 'any disrepair'.

122. In just under half of dwellings (46%) with some form of disrepair, that disrepair is urgent. 73% of dwellings with disrepair have some disrepair to critical elements whilst around a third (32%) suffer from extensive disrepair (Figure 15a-c).

Table 38 Disrepair to critical elements by age of dwelling, tenure and urban/rural indicator (000s and Row %)

No disrepair to critical elementsDisrepair to critical elementsTotalUnweighted
sample size
Age of dwelling
LA/other public1002727573374100483
Private Sector72142986581,7071002,292
Social Sector2503840062650100823
All Dwellings971411,387592,3571003,115
Unweighted sample size1,2631,8523,115

Figure 15 Dwellings with any disrepair: (a) urgency of disrepair (b) some disrepair to critical elements and (c) some extensive disrepair (%)


(a) urgency of disrepair


(b) some disrepair to critical elements


(c) some extensive disrepair (%)

123. Table 38 shows that the likelihood of experiencing disrepair to critical elements increases with the age of the dwelling. Around three-quarters of pre-1919 dwellings have some form of disrepair to critical elements, compared to about a quarter of those built after 1982.

124. Just over half of owner-occupied dwellings and just under half of dwellings rented from housing associations and housing co-operatives have some form of critical disrepair compared with 67% of those which are rented from a private landlord and 73% of those rented from a local authority or other public sector organisation. Overall, dwellings in the social sector are more likely to have disrepair to critical elements than those in the private sector.

125. Table 39 shows that 26% of dwellings in Scotland have some extensive disrepair. Following the same trend as 'any disrepair' and 'disrepair to critical elements', newer dwellings are less likely to suffer from extensive disrepair. 31% of dwellings built before 1919 have some extensive disrepair compared with just 9% of those built after 1982.

126. Housing association and housing co-operatives and owner-occupied dwellings are least likely to have some extensive disrepair.

Table 39 Extensive disrepair by age of dwelling, tenure and urban/rural indicator (000s and Row %)

No extensive disrepairSome extensive disrepairTotalUnweighted
sample size
Age of Dwelling
LA/other public2396413536374100483
Private Sector1,28976418241,7071002,292
Social Sector4587019230650100823
All Dwellings1,74774610262,3571003,115
Unweighted sample size2,3337823,115

127. For 54% of dwellings with some disrepair to critical elements the disrepair is urgent (Figure 16).

128. In 65% of dwellings with extensive disrepair, the disrepair is classed as 'urgent' (Figure 17).

129. Figure 18 shows the proportion of dwellings in each age group which experience 'any disrepair', 'disrepair to critical elements' and 'extensive disrepair'.

Figure 16 Urgent disrepair in dwellings with some form of disrepair to critical elements (%)

Figure 16 Urgent disrepair in dwellings with some form of disrepair to critical elements (%)

Figure 17 Urgent disrepair in dwellings with some form of extensive disrepair (%)

Figure 17 Urgent disrepair in dwellings with some form of extensive disrepair (%)

Figure 18 Any, critical and extensive disrepair by age of dwelling (%)

Figure 18 Any, critical and extensive disrepair by age of dwelling (%)