Housing Health and Safety Ratings System
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System originally came about as a result of some research carried out by the Warwick law society.
The old standard of fitness of a property actually dates back to 1919 with s604 of the Housing Act 1985 (fitness for human habitation) only having a definition/test for the unfitness of a dwelling which could be one of two things:
- Lots of small things, like broken door handles, faulty lights etc and when added together constituted an unfit property or;
- Any major problems, such as a roof collapse or old lighting.
Tenants would go to the Council who would refer the matter to Environmental Health for them to establish as to whether the property in question was fit for habitation.
The Homeless team would put the tenant on a waiting list whilst the place remained unfit.
In addition it was only a pass/fail standard with assessments giving no indication as to how unfit (or fit) a property was and the fact that many of the hazards that affected health and safety were not being dealt with.
Assessments made under the fitness standard were ‘property based’ and did not directly consider the effect of the particular defect or omission on the occupant or visitor.
The office of the Deputy Prime Minister (formerly the ODPM) took these findings to introduce a new evidence-based risk assessment system for assessing housing conditions that would cover a much wider range of potential hazards.
The HHSRS process requires inspectors to:
- Examine properties for health and safety defects;
- Consider the likely harm that could happen as a result of such findings:
- Use a scoring system to determine the seriousness of such defects.
The HHSRS crosses both the PRS and common area management because although it is primarily used for assessing the conditions of rented flats, it actually applies to ALL residential properties. Under Part 1, Chapter 1 s4 of the Housing Act 2004 (inspections by local authorities to see whether category 1 or 2 hazards exist) it 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.
There are 29 such defects which are as follows:
- 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
Whilst landlords who rent out flats are bound by the covenants contained within the lease they can also be bound by any findings under HHSRS, which I’ve personally used both for the common areas of our block and for individual flats. 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 them.