This system of assesing the Health and Safety or fitness for habitation of a rented property has been around for a while now and councils are beginning to consider random checks etc to enforce the law. You are not required to have a full check done by law but are required to consider the 29 types of Hazard and take action where you notice a risk/hazard.
We have composed some information for you to consider things, we are suggesting to all out landlords that you conduct a formal check of all your properties with view to HHSRS. We think a more proactive approach is wise as this will help avoid expensive enforement action which the council can take. You can conduct a check yourself however we also have a local contact who is fully qualified.
Because the full rating system is very involved we are suggesting that you simply have a qualified person asses the houses looking at the 29 points and follow and recommendations without neccesarily completing a full HHSRS survey as this is much more time consuming and therefore costly.
The Housing Act 2004
The Housing Act 2004 (and guidance issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government) (DCLG) requires that all homes must be healthy and safe. This is assessed by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). It applies to all housing whether rented or owner occupied, family homes or houses in multiple occupation.
Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
The system has been developed to assess all the 29 hazards that may be present in the home. These hazards can adversely affect the health and safety of occupiers and any visitors.
When major (category 1) hazards are identified the council has a duty to decide on the most satisfactory course of action. In most cases this will be that the owner removes or reduces the risk. Usually this will be by improvement, but in some cases it may be restricting the occupancy of all or part of the house or even demolition.
For lesser (category 2) hazards the Council may choose to take action.
The Council has approved a Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy; decisions will be taken in accordance with it.
How does it work?
When applying the HHSRS all problems (deficiencies) are identified and their health and safety effects considered. These effects can include any `negative outcome (ranging from a minor illness to death) that is likely to occur in the next year. We will produce a score for the hazard; this reflects both the likelihood and seriousness of the outcome. Each hazard is assessed independently; there is no overall score for the property. The higher the score the more serious the threat to health, safety and wellbeing of occupiers (or visitors), and the more likely that action will need to be taken. A score of 1000 or more is a category 1 hazard.
The assessment is based upon government guidance and worked examples. Further information on this is available from the DCLG website at www.communities.gov.uk
How is this different from the old `fitness standard?
The noticeable differences from the old system to the new are as follows:
HHSRS targets those housing deficiencies that have a are deemed to have a real impact on peoples health. Health and Safety issues are now considered (for example, trips and falls). Heating is required to be adequate (instead of the previous standard of a fixed heater in a main habitable room). Fire safety applies to all housing. Radon, asbestos, security and other matters are now included.
The 29 hazards are as follows:
Damp and Mould Growth
Asbestos (and Man Made Fibres)
Biocides (for example insecticides)
Carbon Monoxide and Fuel Combustion Products
Uncombusted Fuel Gas
Volatile Organic Compounds
Crowding and Space
Entry by Intruders
Domestic Hygiene, Pests and Refuse
Personal Hygiene, Sanitation and Drainage
Water Supply for Domestic Purposes
Falls Associated with Baths, etc.
Falls on the Level
Falls Associated with Stairs and Steps
Falls between Levels
Flames & Hot Surfaces etc.
Collision and Entrapment
Position and Operability of Amenities etc. (ease of use of facilities)
Structural Collapse and Falling Elements
Some of the more common hazards are;-
Heating should be controllable by the occupants and capable of heating the whole of the dwelling adequately and efficiently
Structural thermal insulation should be provided
In practice, a standard equivalent to that of gas central heating and 50mm of loft insulation will be a minimum, and in many cases a higher standard may be needed.
Damp and Mould
The structure and finishes of a dwelling should be maintained free from rising and penetrating dampness or persistent condensation. The presence of mould is serious because of its significant health effects.
There should be sufficient and appropriate means of ventilation to deal with moisture generated by normal domestic activities together with adequate heating and insulation.
Electrical installations must be safe. Live parts must be insulated, adequate earthing provided etc.
There should be adequate sockets to prevent overloading.
A Residual Current Device (RCD) protection is usually required.
Heating should be adequate and safely positioned to minimise the use of portable heaters. Cookers should be properly sited. The electrical wiring should be safe.
There should be adequate warning of a fire (fire alarm) and suitable means of escape especially from upper storeys.
In HMOs and buildings occupied as flats there may need to be a higher standard of fire alarm and a `protected route to provide fire separation and an escape route for each occupant.
Internal and external stairs must be safe. Risers and treads must be even and of an appropriate size. There must be adequate guarding, handrails and lighting. Stair coverings must be in good condition, (not loose, worn or ripped). Width of staircase and winders will also be considered.
Tripping hazards must be minimised. Examples include threshold steps, uneven or slippery floors and external surfaces.
Window sill heights and window types must reduce the risk of falls.
There must be adequate guarding to internal and external drops, for example flat roofs, light-wells and landings.
Bathrooms must have adequate space, lighting, and fitting must be secure and positioned to reduce the likelihood of an accident and the extent of any injury.
Other factors affecting the severity of injuries incurred must be considered, including space and surfaces at the foot of the stairs.
The decency standard is a minimum non statutory standard set by the Government. Councils have the target of ensuring that 70 per cent of private sector vulnerable households live in decent homes by 2010.
The four criteria the property must meet to be `decent are:
There are no category 1 hazards under HHSRS
It is in a reasonable state of repair
It has reasonably modem facilities and services
It provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort
Vulnerable households have been defined for the purposes of decency as those in receipt of principle means tested or disability related benefit(s).
Although Decency is not a statutory standard, parts of it may be enforced under housing law. Achieving decency is a Council objective and they will attempt to do this wherever possible.
Houses in Multiple Occupation
There are additional requirements for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), including shared houses, bedsits and some properties occupied as flats. These are the management regulations and HMO licensing.