You can ask the council to inspect your home under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Environmental health can take action if your home is unsafe.
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
The HHSRS is an assessment of hazards in your home that could affect your health.
The assessment is carried out by an environmental health officer from the local council.
The council must take action if serious problems are found.
This could include:
- informal negotiation with the landlord to improve the property
- formal enforcement action against the landlord
Which homes are covered by the HHSRS?
The council must monitor housing conditions in the area.
This includes private rented properties, council and housing association homes and owner occupied housing.
In practice, it's usually private rented properties that are inspected under HHSRS.
If you're a council or housing association tenant, environmental health might tell you to complain directly to your landlord about repairs and poor conditions.
How to get an inspection
Most councils have a private rented housing team. This is usually your first point of contact if you rent privately.
The private housing team can ask environmental health to inspect your home.
What happens at the inspection
You need to be home or arrange for someone to let the environmental health officer in.
The council may tell your landlord that they intend to inspect. Your landlord can attend but they need your permission to come into your home.
The officer will do a visual inspection of the property. They won't always identify the cause of the problem during the inspection. They may need a specialist report.
For example, there could be a damp problem but the officer won't remove floorboards or plaster to check out the cause. They may tell your landlord to pay for a specialist damp report instead.
How hazards in your home are assessed
Environmental health works out if there's a risk of harm due to hazards in your home.
- the chance of harm
- how serious it would be
- any extra risk to children or older people
Any hazards in your home are then rated as 'category 1' or 'category 2'.
Category 1 hazards are more serious and the council must take action. They can also act on category 2 hazards if they choose to.
What the council do next
Environmental health may try to work with your landlord more informally if they can.
If your landlord won't agree to make the property safe, the council will decide on the best course of formal action.
Formal action means the council must:
- serve one of the following notices on your landlord
- give reasons for their decision to take action
- send you a copy of the notice and reasons
Hazard awareness notice
The notice identifies the hazards and tells the landlord how to fix things. It doesn't give timescales for repairs to be completed.
This type of notice is often used for category 2 hazards. It could also be used to deal with category 1 hazards if, for example:
- the landlord agrees to take quick action
- there's no one vulnerable living in your home
If your landlord ignores the notice, you may need to contact environmental health again especially if there are still category 1 hazards in your home.
The notice must:
- identify the hazards and underlying repair problems
- tell the landlord how to fix things
- give start and finish dates for work to take place
The earliest start date will be 4 weeks after your landlord gets the improvement notice.
Improvement notices are often used to deal with category 1 hazards but can also be used for category 2 hazards.
Your landlord can't usually give you a section 21 notice for 6 months if they get an improvement notice.
The council might suspend an improvement notice. For example, if it's a student house and repairs can be done over the summer when the property is empty.
If the improvement notice is suspended, you don't get automatic protection from section 21 eviction.
Emergency remedial action
The council can carry out the works themselves and charge the landlord for this.
They only do this if there's a good chance that someone in your home will suffer serious harm in the near future.
The council must give the landlord an emergency remedial action notice within 7 days of starting the work. You will also get a copy.
Your landlord can't usually give you a section 21 notice for 6 months if the council take this action.
A prohibition order can:
- prevent people living in all or part of the building
- restrict the number of people who live there
They are sometimes used in overcrowded properties or where it's not practical to carry out work while you're living there.
A prohibition order usually comes into effect after 4 weeks but the council might decide to suspend it if no one vulnerable lives in your home.
In extreme cases, the council can make an emergency prohibition order which comes into effect immediately.
Contact a Shelter adviser if you're asked to leave your home because of a prohibition order.
If the council won't inspect or take action
You can complain if you don't think the council has dealt with your problem properly.
Ask for a copy of their:
- housing enforcement policy
- complaints procedure
Check the council have followed their own housing enforcement policy. If not, you can use the complaints procedure.
If you're not satisfied with the council's response to your complaint, you can complain to the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman.
You could also consider raising the issue with your local councillor or MP.
Last updated 08 July 2020 | © Shelter
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