Housing Health & Safety:

According to the recently published English Housing Survey, the private rented sector had the highest proportion of non-decent homes. In this 2017-18 survey, 25% of homes in the private rented sector were non-decent according to the Decent Homes Standard. This is compares with 19% of owner occupied homes, and 13% of socially rented homes.

Using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), 14% of privately rented homes have at least one Category 1 hazard, compared with 11% of owner occupied homes, and 6% of those in the social rented sector.

However, it has long been suggested that the HHSRS system for assessing condition is complex and needs updating and improving. So, the Government has eventually got around to announcing that an overhaul of the system will begin this year.

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The current system is used by local authorities to assess a range of potential hazards in rented properties: damp, excess cold and electrical faults as well as potential fire and fall / trip hazards. Accommodation throughout England is assessed against 29 of these identifiable hazards.

Following criticism over many years that the system is too complicated and inefficient to give consistent results, a consultation took place in February of this year to consider options to update and simplify the process.

Recommendations following the consultation resulted in Housing Minister, Heather Wheeler MP moving forward to “improve, clarify and modernise HHSRS”, to address whether any of the 29 hazards can be removed or combined. The Government will also improve the guidance given to local authorities, landlords and tenants.

Heather Wheeler has stated that the intention is to make the process simpler to understand by all parties concerned, and to be quicker for local authorities to assess health and safety standards in rented homes.

The aim is to help the authorities to improve conditions for tenants and better tackle rogue landlords. Wheeler has committed to directly addressing what experts in the field have said: that the system should be simplified, that minimum standards for common health and safety hazards should be developed and that digital solutions for inspecting rented houses and flats should be explored.

In summary, the review the Government intends to:

  • Review, simplify and improve the processes and update the current HHSRS guidance.
  • Develop a comprehensive set of Worked Examples clearly explaining the range of hazards to illustrate the application of standards to a range of risks.
  • Review the current assessor training methods and the needs of assessors and other interested parties.
  • Identify a simple of banding together the results of HHSRS assessments to make them much easier understand for non-specialists.

The review will investigate the use of digital technology to speed up the process of assessment and improve understanding and consistency of results for all concerned.

Guides will be produced to help both the professionals and landlords / tenants.

It is expected that new system will be implemented later in 2019 when Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 will be amended.

See – Housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS): guidance for landlords and property-related professionals here

See – Reviewing the HHSRS here

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