Housing Training and Consultancy Ltd

HHSRS

Introduction | Private sector housing | Social housing | Private landlords

Introduction

Damp and MouldPart 1 of the Housing Act 2004 replaced the former housing fitness standard with the new Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).  The Rating System is a structured, risk assessment approach to determine whether a hazard is significant and warrants intervention rather than a conventional standard to give a judgment of fit or unfit.  The HHSRS is evidence based; national statistics on the health impacts of hazards encountered in the home are used as a basis for assessing individual hazards.  It uses a weighted system to generate a score when assessing an individual hazard.  If the score is 1,000 or above, it is a category 1 hazard and a local housing authority has a duty to deal with it.  A property with a category 1 hazard automatically fails the Decent Homes Standard.  If the hazard scores below 1,000, the local housing authority still has a discretionary power to require action by the property owner. Details of the Operating Guidance issued by Communities and Local Government which explains how the system works can be downloaded here.

The Rating System gives local housing authorities strong enforcement powers.  The Enforcement Guidance issued by Communities and Local Government can be downloaded here. Property owners (and in the case of Prohibition Orders also tenants) who do not agree with enforcement action taken by a local housing authority can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).  Information on the Tribunal is available here.

Private Sector Housing

Most local housing authorities are now very familiar with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.  From time to time, however, many feel it appropriate to have a refresher session for existing staff (both with hazard assessment and enforcement) and also need to put new staff through full HHSRS training.  We also run an Advanced Practitioners Course which looks in considerable depth at hazards such as damp & mould growth, excess cold, carbon monoxide.  The courses are regularly updated to reflect current case law and tribunal decisions. Please see here for details of the various practitioners, enforcement, advanced practitioners and refresher training courses run by Lavender & Wilson.

In addition to training, local housing authorities may find on occasions that with an unusual or complex case, or perhaps a case with significant wider implications, that independent advice would be very valuable.  Both directors have very extensive experience of litigation, of surveying in contentious cases (in many different arenas including Crown Court, County Court and Tribunals) and of HHSRS.  An initial telephone consultation is always given free of charge, and agreements on consultancy can be reached on hourly or day rates or for a fixed fee.  We can act as expert witnesses at hearings and where appropriate act as advocates. Back to Top

Social Housing

hhsrs5Knowledge of HHSRS is of major importance to social landlords:

  • It is the minimum legal standard for housing and local authorities do take enforcement action against RSLs
  • Just one category 1 hazard means that a property fails the decent homes standard
  • It is vital that both void and response repair inspections pick up significant hazards
  • Programmed works should address any design issues causing significant hazards
  • Stock  condition data is not valid unless inspections have included HHSRS and the Housing Inspectorate will look for evidence that social landlords understand and apply HHSRS
  • The HHSRS is much broader than the fitness standard it replaced.  It covers issues such as heating & insulation, condensation, falls, fire, electrics, carbon monoxide,  noise, asbestos etc

Lavender & Wilson offer both one and two day training courses in HHSRS.  This training is tailored to the particular needs of social landlords and is delivered by Peter Wilson who has extensive private sector experience and also managed over 11,000 local authority properties and has a good understanding of the practicalities of management in social housing. In addition to training social landlords may find on occasions that independent advice on HHSRS would be valuable with regard to:

  • Stock condition data – we can validate data from both condition survey contractors and in house staff.  In either case information collected must deal properly with HHSRS or it will not be valid and decent homes returns and programmes will be adversely affected.
  • Decent homes compliance – we can give independent expert advice on hazards and the implications
  • Individual cases – local authorities will generally adopt an informal approach with social landlords but if there is a category 1 hazard then the local authority has a duty to act and will resort to enforcement action if agreement is not reached.  A statutory notice usually affects just one property; if it is a design fault in an archetype it may affect hundreds.  In all  cases you will want to be satisfied that the action is appropriate and proportionate; in some cases you may want to challenge the action and we can advise on appeal procedures and represent you if appropriate.  The appeal period is short (generally 21 days) and failure to act within this time can have serious consequences.
  • Lavender & Wilson also offer expert witness services in respect of claims under Section 11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, Section 82 Environmental Protection Act 1990 and duty of care claims.

Both directors have very extensive experience of litigation, of surveying in contentious cases (in many different arenas including up to Crown Court level) and of HHSRS.  An initial telephone consultation is always given free of charge, and agreements on consultancy can be reached on hourly or day rates or for a fixed fee. Back to Top

Private Landlords

If you are a private landlord, when letting properties it is most important that you ensure you meet the requirements of the law.  In particular, your property should be free from significant hazards.  The HHSRS is much broader than the fitness standard it replaced.  It covers issues such as heating & insulation, condensation, falls, fire, electrics, carbon monoxide,  noise, asbestos etc.  The enforcement powers available to local authorities are wide ranging and include emergency powers to carry out very urgent works, with the ability to recharge the owner as well as to prohibit the use of premise with immediate effect. We can assist private landlords in several respects:

  • We can inspect properties prior to letting to ensure that there are no significant hazards and that any other statutory requirements are met (for example if the property is a house in multiple occupation).
  • If a local housing authority does contact you requiring action to be taken, we can advise whether the action is appropriate and proportionate.  Our advice will be frank and impartial; if work is required we will tell you so but if the work is not reasonably required and/or not proportionate in extent, we will advise you on challenging the local authority action.  We can advise on appeal procedures and represent you, if appropriate. It is important that you seek guidance the within the appeal period usually 21 days or 28 days from the date of service, depending on the type of notice or order served.
  • Lavender & Wilson also offer expert witness services in respect of claims under Section 11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, Section 82 Environmental Protection Act 1990 and duty of care claims.

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