Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

The rating system

The Housing Act 2004 introduced the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and replaced the fitness standard for houses. It is a risk based system for deciding whether a house is healthy and safe.

When a survey is carried out, 29 hazards are assessed, and the likelihood of injury or ill health from each hazard is calculated. It therefore differentiates between those hazards where there is a small chance of relatively minor harm and those where there is an imminent risk of major harm or death – the higher the hazard score, the greater the threat to health and safety.

  • The assessment
  • The outcomes
  • Local authority involvement
  • How will the system be used in enforcement

The assessment

When carrying out assessments, each hazard is determined having reference to the “vulnerable” group i.e. those persons who, by age, are most susceptible to suffering harm from the hazard in question.

  • When using the HHSRS, the dwelling is not assessed for the current occupiers.
  • Additional vulnerability due to physical disability etc is not taken into account with the HHSRS
  • The basis is that if a property is “safe” for the most vulnerable, it will be safe for anybody
  • It is an assessment tool, not a standard
  • No property will ever be hazard-free –it’s all about acceptable risk and unacceptable risk

The survey procedure is designed for use in any type of dwelling, including houses, flats and bedsits. Where a dwelling shares means of access, amenities or facilities, those are assessed as a part of that dwelling. Therefore, in multi-occupied buildings, each bedsit should be surveyed separately.

The outcomes

Once the assessment has been carried out, for each hazard identified, a judgement is made about how likely it is to occur over the next 12 months and, if it did, what the level of harm involved would be.

This information is provided for different property ages and types so some basic information is available as a yardstick

What the assessor has to judge is whether, in the property in question, the occurrence of the hazard is more or less likely and whether it is likely to give rise to more, or less, serious harm than the average expected for the property age & type

  • The assessment produces a hazard score
  • Each hazard identified carries it’s own individual hazard score –if 4 hazards are identified, there’ll be 4 hazard scores
  • There is not one overall hazard score for the property as a whole

The hazards score will be classified as Category 1 or Category 2 hazards.

Local authority involvement

Local authorities have a duty to keep the housing conditions in their area under review. Either as a result of that review, or for some other reason such as a complaint from a tenant or a neighbour, they can inspect a property if they have reason to think that a health or safety hazard exists there. The scoring of hazards found during an inspection must be carried out in accordance with the method set out in the HHSRS Regulations.

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, or any housing owned by a public sector landlord. Councils have a duty to deal with hazards which are assessed as ‘Category 1’ under HHSRS, and discretionary powers to deal with ‘Category 2’ hazards.

How will the system be used in enforcement?

The first step should be to approach the landlord informally. However, the amount of leeway allowed to a landlord informally will be at the Council’s discretion.

If the landlord does not respond, the Council is most likely to move into formal action – by issuing an improvement notice on the owner (or agent) requiring that the hazard(s) is removed or minimised within a set time – generally 28 days.

In more serious cases, a council may serve a prohibition order, prohibiting use of all or part of the dwelling.

There are other options available to the council, such as hazard awareness notices.