Health & Safety:
Automated transactional platform operator, PayProp, says the Government’s health and safety review is now more important more than ever.
The ongoing review of the housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS), a risk based safety risk assessment system, introduced under the Housing Act 2004, is happening at a very pertinent time for the lettings industry, says PayProp.
“Contextualised against the rapid growth of the private rented sector (PRS) over the last decade and the large number of sub-standard properties, the review makes it crucial for the sector to get its house in order now,” the company says.
What is the HHSRS?
The HHSRS became effective in 2006, under the Housing Act 2004. Although it provides local authorities with the means to check health and safety in residential properties, it is a complex system to implement and difficult for landlords to interpret. In theory, councils can use the HHSRS to recover costs from landlords for repair works or order them to carry out improvements.
Hazards that can be flagged by an HHSRS assessment include damp, overcrowding and fire risks. Issues are ranked in categories, with a ‘category 1’ hazard being the most dangerous.
In October, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced an ongoing review of the HHSRS.
Under consideration is whether the system needs updating and whether to introduce minimum standards for common health and safety problems in rental accommodation.
Sub-standard homes remain an issue in the PRS
The most recent English Housing Survey (EHS), published in January, shows that the PRS accounts for the highest proportion of non-decent homes at 25%.
For a home to be considered ‘decent’, it must meet the HHSRS minimum standard and contain no category 1 hazards, alongside several other criteria.
The EHS shows that in 2017, 14% of PRS homes had a category 1 hazard, down from 31% in 2008.
“With the PRS accounting for the highest proportion of non-decent homes, the review of the HHSRS will be important in determining if criteria need to be tightened in order to reduce the number of sub-standard rental homes,” says Neil Cobbold, chief operating officer of PayProp UK.
“It’s pleasing to see that the number of rental homes with serious hazards is declining, but that is another reason why the HHSRS needs updating.”
“As newer homes enter the sector and energy efficiency continues to improve, there could be entirely different health and safety issues which now merit closer attention,” he says.
The market has evolved since 2006
An updated HHSRS is further essential for the PRS due to the significant change the market has undergone since the system was first introduced.
The EHS shows that in the last decade, the number of households with dependent children in the PRS has increased by 795,000. Meanwhile, during the same period, the number of 35-44-year-olds privately renting more than doubled from 13% to 28%.
“As well as changing demographics, which have an impact on property standards, the sector has become much larger since 2006, now accounting for around a fifth of all households,” Cobbold adds.
“This means more tenants need protection from rogue landlords with increased opportunities to let sub-standard homes.”
“Moreover, the introduction this year of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 – which will give tenants the opportunity to take legal action against landlords letting hazardous homes – means that a HHSRS which reflects the current market is vital.”
“This will help landlords and letting agents to meet their compliance obligations, while offering the required protection for the nation’s renters,” he concludes.