The Housing Act 2004 came into effect on the 6th April 2006 and introduced with it a new way of assessing dwellings called the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which replaces the old ‘fitness standard’ under the Housing Act 1985.
The HHSRS aims to provide a method which enables risks from hazards to health and safety in dwellings to be removed or minimised. The principle behind the system is that a dwelling, any associated outbuildings and outdoor amenity space should provide a safe and healthy environment for the occupants and any visitors to the dwelling. The dwelling should be free from hazards or when they are unavoidable, they should be made as safe as is reasonably practicable. The HHSRS applies to both single dwellings and Houses in Multiple Occupation.
The HHSRS assesses 29 categories of housing hazard including those which were not covered or were inadequately covered by the old housing ‘fitness standard’. Click on the housing hazards in the list below for more information.
The property is inspected and any defects and deficiencies which may pose a hazard are noted. A score for each hazard is then calculated. The score depends on the severity of the hazard and its potential to cause injury to a person who is most vulnerable to that hazard. For example, stairs constitute a greater risk to the elderly, so when assessing the hazard relating to stairs, the elderly are considered to be the vulnerable group. Likewise the elderly and very young are at greater risk from cold so they are the vulnerable group for the hazard excess cold. The greater the likelihood of harm occurring or the more severe the outcome, then the higher the score for the hazard will be.
The scores are divided into 10 hazard bands, A to J, Band A is the most serious and Band J the least serious. A hazard which falls into Bands A to C is termed a ‘Category 1’ hazard, the Council has a statutory duty to take enforcement action to deal with these hazards, while a hazard in bands D to F is a ‘Category 2’ hazard which the Council has the power to take enforcement action to deal with if it is deemed appropriate.
The decision on which type of action can be taken is based on several factors, the severity of the hazard score, whether the Council has a duty of just a power to act and a judgement about the best means of dealing with the hazard. Any action will be taken in line with the Council's Enforcement Policy (see below).
The courses of action available to the Council are:
- Improvement Notice to carry out remedial work to remove or reduce Category 1 or 2 hazards within a property within a specified time period
- Prohibition Order to prohibit use of part or all of the dwelling where Category 1 or 2 hazards exist, it can also be used to prohibit use of the dwelling for certain purposes or certain groups of people.
- Hazard Awareness Notice for remote and minor Category 1 and 2 hazards where remedial action is desirable.
- Demolition Order to deal with dwellings where Category 1 and 2 hazards are present and demolition is deemed to be the most satisfactory course of action.
- Emergency Remedial Action to take action to remove Category 1 hazards which present an imminent risk of serious harm to the occupiers or other persons. The action can be taken by the Council at any time with a Notice served within 7 days.
- Emergency Prohibition Order to immediately prohibit the use of all or part of the dwelling where a Category 1 hazard presents an imminent risk of serious harm to the occupiers or other persons.
- Declaration of a Clearance Area to deal with dwellings where Category 1 and 2 hazards are present and clearance is deemed to be the most satisfactory course of action.
The Council is able to act in default and prosecute for lack of compliance with Notices and Orders. It is also able to charge and recover costs associated with taking enforcement action.
Appeals against Notices and Orders is now made by applying to the Residential Property Tribunal.