Housing, Health and Safety Ratings System (HHSRS)
The Housing Health and Safety Ratings System (HHSRS) was introduced under Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 and is an ‘evidence-based risk assessment’ approach to housing.
Whilst it is actively targeted at the PRS because of the number of rental properties that would be judged unacceptable under it’s criteria, it applies to ALL residential properties which includes blocks of flats and their common areas. This is because Part 1, Chapter 1 s4 of the Act states that ”if an official complaint about the condition of any residential premises is made to the proper officer of the authority’ i.e.a complaint received by writing by a ‘justice of the peace having jurisdiction in any part of the district’,’ or the ‘parish or community council for a parish or community within the district’ and if the circumstances complained of indicate that any Category 1 or 2 hazard may exist on those premises or an area in the district should be dealt with as a clearance area, the proper officer must inspect the premises or area.’
The process requires inspectors to examine properties for health and safety defects that include fire risk, damp, overcrowding, poor lighting, and pests. Once the defects are identified they consider the likely harm that could happen as a result of such findings and use a scoring system to determine the seriousness of such defects of which there are 29.
- Damp and Mould Growth
- Excess Cold
- Excess Heat
- Asbestos and MMF
- Carbon Monoxide and Fuel Combustion Products
- Uncombusted Fuel Gas
- Volatile Organic Compounds
- Crowding and Space
- Entry by Intruders
- 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
- Flames, Hot Surfaces etc
- Collision and Entrapment
- Position and Operability of Amenities etc
- Structural Collapse and Falling Elements
WHEN HAZARDS ARE FOUND
Under s5 of the Housing Act 2004, where Category 1 hazards are found, the local authority are under a general duty to take enforcement action and under s20 of the Housing Act 2004, it is the duty of the local authority to:
1: Make A Prohibition Order
A Prohibition Order can be made if the local authority is satisfied that a category 1 hazard exists on any residential premises. Such an order imposes prohibition (or prohibitions on the use of any premises as is or are specified in the order in accordance with subsections 3 (if only one course of action within subsection 2 is available to the authority in relation to the hazard, they must take that course of action), subsection 4 (if two or more courses of action within subsection 2 are available to the authority in relation to the hazard, they must take the course of action which they consider to be the most appropriate of those available to them and s22 (contents of prohibition orders).
The order may prohibit use of the following premises—
- If the residential premises on which the hazard exists are a dwelling or HMO which is not a flat, it may prohibit use of the dwelling or HMO;
- If those premises are one or more flats, it may prohibit use of the building containing the flat or flats (or any part of the building) or any external common parts;
- If those premises are the common parts of a building containing one or more flats, it may prohibit use of the building (or any part of the building) or any external common parts.
Note: 2 and 3 are subject to subsection 4 (any such prohibition may prohibit use of any specified premises, or of any part of those premises, either a) for all purposes, or
b) for any particular purpose except (in either case) to the extent to which any use of the premises or part is approved by the authority.
The notice may not, by virtue of subsection (3)(b) or (c), prohibit use of any part of the building or its external common parts that is not included in any residential premises on which the hazard exists, unless the authority are satisfied that a) the deficiency from which the hazard arises is situated there, and b) that it is necessary for such use to be prohibited in order to protect the health or safety of any actual or potential occupiers of one or more of the flats.
A prohibition order under this section may relate to more than one category 1 hazard on the same premises or in the same building containing one or more flats.
The operation of a prohibition order under this section may be suspended in accordance with s23 (suspension of prohibition order).
As with improvement notices, prohibition orders can also be suspended and made to come into operation after a specified event (such as when an occupant moves in or out of the property).
Someone who allows premises to be used against the terms of the order commits an offence.
Note: Local authorities have the power to make a prohibition order for category 2 hazards if a) they are satisfied that a category 2 hazard exists on any residential premises, and b) no management order is in force in relation to the premises under Chapter 1 or 2 of Part 4. The authority may make a prohibition order under this section in respect of the hazard.
2: Serve an Improvement Notice
This is a possible course of action for dealing with category 1 or 2 hazards and must at the very least remove any category 1’s.