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Advice for Landlords

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System Explained

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What is the Housing Health and Safety Rating System?

The Housing Act 2004 has introduced a new way in which councils assess housing conditions in England and Wales . It uses a risk assessment approach called the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). It replaces the fitness standard which dated back to 1919. This pass/fail standard gave no indication as to how unfit a property was and did not deal with many of the hazards that affected health and safety. The HHSRS on the other hand addresses all the key issues that affect health and safety.

How is the System applied?

Local authorities have a duty to keep the housing conditions in their area under review. They can inspect a property if they have reason to think that a health or safety hazard exists. As well as providing the legal basis for HHSRS, the 2004 Act contains a package of enforcement measures for local councils to use. These powers can be used to deal with poor housing in the private sector.

What are the Principles of the System?

The aim is to provide a system (not a standard) to enable risks from hazards to health and safety in dwellings to be identified, removed or minimised.

The key principle of the system is that a dwelling, including the structure and associated outbuildings and garden, yard and/or other amenity space, and means of access, should provide a safe and healthy environment for the occupants and, by implication, for any visitors. The HHSRS reflects the significant impact that housing can have on occupiers, not only physically but also emotionally and socially

The inspection process is a risk based assessment and considers the effect of any 'hazards' in the property. Hazards are rated according to how serious they are and the effect they are having, or could have, on any occupants or visitors to the property. The basic principle is that the property should be safe for occupation.

What are the hazards?

The system can deal with 29 hazards summarised as follows:

A. Physiological Requirements

B. Psychological Requirements

Damp and Mould Growth
Excess Cold
Excess Heat
Asbestos (and man-made fibres)
Biocides
Carbon Monoxide and Fuel Combustion Products
Lead
Radiation
Uncombusted Fuel Gas
Volatile Organic Compounds

Crowding and Space
Entry by Intruders
Lighting
Noise

C. Protection Against Infection

D. Protection against Accidents

Domestic Hygiene, Pests and Refuse
Food Safety
Personal Hygiene, Sanitation and Drainage
Water supply

Falls associated with baths etc
Falling on level surfaces etc
Falling on stairs etc
Falling between levels
Electrical hazards
Fire
Flames, Hot Surfaces etc
Collision and Entrapment
Explosions
Position and Operability of Amenities
Structural collapse and falling elements

How are inspections carried out?

Inspections are a physical assessment of the whole property during which deficiencies (faults) are noted and recorded. Once the inspection has been completed, the inspector judges:

  1. whether there are any hazards
  2. the likelihood of an occurrence and the range of possible outcomes for those hazard.

Each hazard is assessed separately, and if judged to be 'serious', with a 'high score', is deemed to be a category 1 hazard. All other hazards are called category 2 hazards.

How are assessments made?

The assessment process is not just a question of spotting defects, but is all about risk assessment, outcomes and effects. When an inspector finds a hazard, two key tests are applied - what is the likelihood of a dangerous occurrence as a result of the hazard and if there is such an occurrence, what would be the likely outcome.

The action that needs to be taken to deal with a hazard will be influenced by who is occupying the property. Once a property has been made safe for the most vulnerable, it should be safe for all.

How will the system be used in enforcement?

The hazard score does not dictate the action to be taken, but councils have a duty under the Act to take action of some kind if they discover a category 1 hazard in a property, and a power to take action to deal with a category 2 hazard.

Their first step would be to approach the landlord informally, however, if the landlord does not respond, the council can move into formal action by serving an improvement notice on the owner requiring that the hazard(s) be removed or minimised within a set time. In more serious cases, the Council may serve a prohibition order prohibiting the use of all or part of a dwelling. If there is an 'imminent risk of serious harm' to the occupants, the council can serve an emergency notice to remove the hazard. This notice allows the Council to enter the premises and take urgent action to deal with the hazard. Emergency prohibition orders can also be used to gain access to a building if the situation is serious enough to warrant it. Even without using emergency powers, a council can, with or without the agreement of the owner, carry out the works required in a notice (and charge accordingly).

Useful Contacts

For further information and advice please contact -

The Housing Standards Team
Economic and Housing Regeneration Services
Town Hall
Market Street
Nelson
Lancashire
BB9 7LG
Tel: 01282 661008
Fax: 01282 661043
Email: housing.standards@pendle.gov.uk

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