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Housing, Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

On the 6th April 2006, the new Housing Act 2004 introduced an new system for assessing risks in rented properties. The Housing, Health & Safety Rating System enables local authorities to address more effectively the hazards to health and safety present in the home.

The principle behind the new system is to ensure that a dwelling, including the structure and associated outbuildings and garden, yard, and/or other amenity space should provide a safe and healthy environment for the occupants and any visitors.

It focuses on identifying and tackling the hazards that are most likely to be present in housing to make homes healthier and safer to live in.

The system can deal with 29 hazards relating to:

  • Dampness, excess cold/heat
  • Pollutants e.g. asbestos, carbon monoxide, lead
  • Lack of space, security or lighting, or excessive noise
  • Poor hygiene, sanitation, water supply
  • Accidents - falls, electric shocks, fires, burns, scalds
  • Collisions, explosions, structural collapse

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.

A risk assessment looks at the likelihood of an incident arising from the condition of the property and the likely harmful outcome. If a local authority discovers category 1 hazards in a home, it has a duty to take the most appropriate action.

How does it work?

A risk assessment looks at the likelihood of an incident arising from the condition of the property and the likely harmful outcome. For example, how likely is a fire to break out, what will happen if one does?

The assessment will show the presence of any serious (Category 1) hazards and other less serious (Category 2) hazards.

To make an assessment, local authority inspectors will make reference to the HHSRS 'Operating Guidance' and 'Enforcement Guidance'. During an inspection they may take notes manually or may use a programme on a hand held computer.

How is it enforced and what are the penalties?

If a local authority discovers category 1 hazards in a home, it has a duty to take the most appropriate action. Local authorities are advised to try to deal with problems informally at first.

If this is unsuccessful, the council could serve notice on a landlord requiring him or her to carry out improvements to the property. For example, by installing central heating and insulation to deal with cold, fix a rail to steep stairs to deal with the risk of falls, or repair a leaking roof. Local authorities also have powers to prohibit the use of the whole or part of a dwelling or restrict the number of permitted occupants.

Where hazards are modest they may serve a hazard-awareness notice to draw attention to a problem. Where an occupier is at immediate risk, the authority can take emergency remedial action.

A property owner who feels that an assessment is wrong can discuss matters with the inspector and ultimately will be able to challenge an enforcement decision through the Residential Property Tribunal.

Failure to comply with a statutory notice could lead to a fine of up to £5,000 and/or the council carrying out work in default.

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