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House Condition Survey

Updated: 26 Oct 2016
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The survey looks at both social and private housing
Belvoir Estate in South East Belfast

2016 Northern Ireland House Condition Survey

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive has a statutory responsibility for carrying out regular House Condition Surveys. This year’s survey – the first since 2011 – commenced at the end of May. The survey examines the condition and energy efficiency of homes in the owner occupied, private rented and social sectors and the results are used to guide priorities for housing expenditure.
Our first survey in 1974 painted a very bleak picture, with one in five homes in Northern Ireland classified as unfit. Since then there has been a dramatic improvement in housing conditions, supported by significant Government funding. In 2011 the unfitness rate had fallen to below 5%.
The House Condition Survey is a very important piece of research and we would urge everyone who is contacted to take part to help us build as comprehensive a picture of Northern Ireland’s housing as possible.
The survey will take approximately an hour to complete, depending on the size of the property. The survey will also give you the opportunity to ask a professionally qualified surveyor any questions you may have regarding the condition of your home and improving its energy efficiency.
The survey is completely confidential and any information given will be treated as such. No individuals or households will be identified in the report.
If you need further information then you can ring the House Condition Survey Helpline at the Housing Executive on 0800 072 0987. For Text Relay please dial 18001 03448 920 900. If you require a sign-language interpreter or translator, this can also be arranged.

Objectives of the 2016 NI House Condition Survey

The key objectives for the 2016 Northern Ireland House Condition Survey are:
  • To provide a comprehensive picture of the dwelling stock and its condition in 2016 for Northern Ireland and each of the 11 new District Councils: Belfast will be divided into four, giving a total of 14 areas;
  • To facilitate a comparative analysis of housing conditions in Northern Ireland with other parts of the UK;
  • To examine the association between dwelling conditions and the social and economic circumstances of households;
  • To examine changes in the condition of the stock over time in terms of key Government measures: Decent Homes Standard and the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
  • To provide a reliable assessment of the energy efficiency of the stock and the level of Fuel Poverty in Northern Ireland on a comparable basis with the rest of the UK.
These objectives are broadly consistent with those of the 2001, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2011 surveys.
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) has replaced the Fitness Standard in England but so far has not been adopted in Northern Ireland. The 2016 HCS will provide updated figures for Northern Ireland.
The HCS will also provide updated profiles of key sub sectors of the market, in particular the private rented sector, as well as robust housing and socio-economic information for use in the assessment of future housing needs.

The Sample

The total number of dwellings selected for participation in the 2016 HCS is 3,000. Approximately 200 addresses have been selected at random for each of the new council areas outside Belfast and approximately 200 each for North, South, West and East Belfast.
The 2016 sample includes two elements:
  • A resample element, which will provide a longitudinal analysis of changes in the housing stock including tenure. This will consist of a re-survey of approximately 1,400 properties fully surveyed in 2011.
  • A fresh sample of approximately 1,600 properties taken from the Pointer database held by NISRA.
  • The process of weighting and grossing will ensure final figures reflect the actual housing stock.


An electronic approach to data collection and validation was first applied in the 2009 HCS and refined in 2011. The 2016 HCS has taken advantage of the newer versions of tablets now available on the market and a detailed investigation undertaken found the ‘Microsoft Surface 3’ to offer the best features in terms of value for money, weight, battery life, toughness and useability. The added functionality provided by the tablet p.c. over traditional paper forms, in particular on-site keying of data and validation, will maximise the quality of the data collected and will reduce the time spent investigating missing data and punching errors. In addition, the tablet permits a faster turnaround of the survey results with tabular results available at least six months ahead of earlier methods using paper forms.

The E-Survey Form

The E-Survey form broadly remains the same as previous paper surveys and can be divided into two components: The physical survey and the social survey or household interview.

The Physical Survey

A detailed technical survey form is filled in for each property where the surveyor has gained access. The surveyor completes an inspection of the interior and exterior of the house. The surveyor also inspects the front and back plot of the survey dwelling and makes an assessment of the local neighbourhood.
Key information is gathered in the physical section which will allow measurement of repairs costs, the Fitness Standard, The Decent Homes Standard, Fuel Poverty, SAP and the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.

The Social Survey

The surveyor also carries out a short interview with the householder or partner (if applicable). Information is gathered on a range of issues including:
  • housing history
  • home improvements
  • heating in the home
  • household demographics including information on members of the household with a disability
This information will help assess the housing needs of particular groups such as the elderly, families with young children, single person and low income households. Information from the social survey will be cross referenced with elements from the physical survey.
This will give an indication of the types of households living in dwellings which are in the poorest condition, in those which fail The Decent Homes Standard, the HHSRS or in those designated as fuel poor.



A total of 19 surveyors are employed to work on the Survey, all of whom have worked on previous House Condition Surveys. The surveyors employed are either Environmental Health Officers, chartered surveyors or architects. Five supervisors have been appointed and are responsible for quality assuring the work of the surveyors.


A training course was held in May 2016 and was conducted by staff from the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the Housing Executive’s Research Unit and by the HCS supervisors. The aim of the training was to update the surveyors on changes to the form in terms of new information to be recorded and to update surveyors on enhancements to the hardware and software.

In the field

Letters and leaflets are sent to all households selected a few weeks before the surveyor calls.

Contact Details

If you would like further information on the survey or have any comments to make, please contact:
Project leader - Jahnet Brown
The Housing Centre,
2 Adelaide Street,
Belfast BT2 8PB

House Condition Survey – District Council Area results (modelled)

The Housing Executive commissioned BRE to develop a model using the 2011 House Condition Survey data, in conjunction with the 2011 Census data,  which would provide key housing indicators at District Council level. Results were to be on a comparable basis with the rest of the UK.
The key housing indicators produced at District Council level were: Fuel Poverty, Decent Homes and Unfitness. The following report and table by BRE outlines the findings.

2011 House Condition Survey

The Northern Ireland House Condition Survey main report is now available.
The 2011 Survey was completed using mobile field computers. This technology was first employed for the 2009 HCS and was reviewed and enhanced for 2011. Benefits achieved by moving to the e-form include administrative efficiencies in the collection of data, an improvement in data quality and a faster turn-around of survey results. Key stock findings are presented here four months after the fieldwork was completed.

2009 House condition survey

The 2009 report is now ready to download.

2006 House conditions survey

The 2006 Report is now available. Reports can also be requested by contacting the Research Unit.
The 2006 survey provides figures for unfitness in the housing stock, the Decent Homes Standard, fuel poverty and the Housing Health and Safety Rating system.The survey covers all tenures and types of housing including owner occupied and rented housing, vacant dwellings, houses in multiple occupation, flats and sheltered accommodation.
Parallel surveys are also conducted in England, Scotland and Wales.

Previous housing condition surveys

We have conducted a house condition survey every five years in Northern Ireland since 1974. The survey provides a comprehensive insight into housing in Northern Ireland. It provides key information which helps develop housing policy and target resources where they are most needed. An interim house condition survey was carried out in 2004. The statistical annex for this survey is also available.