The Housing Act 2004 introduced a new way in which Councils assess housing conditions. The Housing Health & safety Rating System (HHSRS) uses a risk assessment approach to enable risks from hazards to health and safety to be removed or minimised and considers 29 hazards.
The system came into force from April 2006 and replaced the old housing fitness standard. It applies across all residential premises, including homeowners and landlords, including social landlords. HHSRS assessments can be applied to any dwelling whether occupied or vacant.
The key principle of the system is that any residential premises should provide a safe and healthy environment for any potential occupier or visitor.
The HHSRS is a system to assess the likely risk of harm that could occur from any deficiency associated with a dwelling.
A risk assessment inspection is carried out to consider the likelihood of an incident occurring as a result of the condition of the property and the likely harmful outcome if an incident did occur.
The assessment will show the presence of any serious hazards (category 1) and other less serious hazards (category 2). Dwellings which contain one or more category 1 hazards under the HHSRS are deemed to fail the current minimum standard for housing and are therefore non decent (see below).
There are 29 hazards considered under the HHSRS, including damp and mould growth, excess cold, crowding and space and fire.
The Council has a range of enforcement options that can be taken depending on the seriousness of the hazard(s) found. With the most serious hazards the council has a duty to take action but where a hazard is less serious it has discretion whether to take action or not. The council will usually attempt to remedy a hazard through informal means, but if that approach is unsuccessful, the enforcement options include serving an Improvement Notice, making a Prohibition Order, emergency remedial action, serving a Hazard Awareness Notice, making a Demolition Order or declaring a Clearance Area.
For more information on the HHSRS download the Information Leaflet. A useful booklet, "Housing Health and Safety Rating System - Guidance for Landlords and Property related Professionals" is available on the Communities & Local Government website. For both see under Downloads/Links.
What is the Decent Homes Standard?
A decent home is one which is wind and weather tight, warm and has reasonably modern facilities (bathrooms and kitchens). The Government believes that everyone should have the opportunity to live in a decent home and has set targets for increasing the number of vulnerable households living in decent homes.
A decent home meets the following criteria:
- It meets the current minimum standard for housing. Dwellings which fail to meet this are those containing one or more category 1 hazards under the HHSRS.
- It is in a reasonable state of repair
- It has reasonably modern facilities and services
- It provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort
The decent homes standard is not an enforcement standard and local authorities do not have powers to require owners to comply.
However, the council will have regard to this standard when giving advice to property owners.