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Introduction and terminology

This content applies to England & Wales

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), including its underlying principles and terminology.

Introduction

The HHSRS is a system for assessing housing conditions, given statutory effect by Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004.[1] It replaced the previous test of fitness for human habitation in section 604 Housing Act 1985.

Under the HHSRS a local authority:

  • carries out inspections of rented housing
  • identifies whether any specified hazards are present
  • categorises those hazards according to objective criteria

with reference to:

While the Operating Guidance as a whole is advisory, it was drafted by reference to the requirements of Housing Act 2004 and the regulations.

Under the HHSRS a local authority also has powers and duties to take enforcement steps by reference to the HHSRS Operating Guidance[4] and the Housing Act 2004.

Underlying principles

The HHSRS is not intended to provide a single standard but to identify hazards and their likely impact on the health and safety of the occupier or visitor in residential accommodation.[5]

A hazard is any risk of harm (including temporary harm) to the health or safety of an actual or potential occupier of accommodation that arises from a deficiency in the dwelling, house in multiple occupation or building or land in the vicinity. Health includes mental health.[6]

The underlying principle is that 'any residential premises should provide a safe and healthy environment for any potential occupier or visitor'[7] and so a dwelling should:

  • be designed, constructed and maintained with non-hazardous materials
  • be free from both unnecessary and avoidable hazards (some hazards such as stairs and gas and electrical supplies are necessary or unavoidable but the design installation and maintenance should be such as to reduce to a minimum and occurrence that could cause harm), and
  • provide adequate protection from all potential hazards prevailing in the local environment (such as weather and pollution) and where the dwelling is part of larger structure the latter should be adequately constructed and maintained to provide adequate protection from all potential hazards including those in the building outside the dwelling.[8]

The HHSRS assessment is only concerned with the risks to health and or safety and the cost of remedy is immaterial to the assessment.[9]

Terminology

Certain terms are used and defined in the HHSRS, including the following:[10]

  • deficiency - failure of an element to meet the ideal, whether as a result of disrepair or original design or construction
  • dwelling - any form of accommodation which is used or intended to be used for habitation, including shared facilities, common parts, gardens and outbuildings
  • element - any component, facility or amenity of a dwelling
  • harm and class of harm - harm is an adverse physical or mental effect on the health of a person, and for the purposes of the HHSRS harms that may arise from an occurrence have been categorised into four classes according to their perceived severity. The classes of harm are set out in the regulations and range from death and extreme harms in Class 1 to moderate harms in Class 4[11]
  • hazard - any risk of harm (including temporary harm) to the health or safety of an actual or potential occupier of accommodation that arises from a deficiency
  • hazard score and rating - is a numerical representation of the overall risk from a hazard. It is based on the evaluation of the likelihood of an occurrence and of the probable spread of harms that could result and the rating is the band into which the hazard score falls
  • health - state of physical, mental and social well-being
  • HHSRS formula - the formula used to calculate the hazard score
  • ideal - the perceived optimum standard, at the time of assessment, intended to prevent, avoid or minimise the hazard
  • likelihood - the probability of an occurrence that could cause harm, and for the HHSRS this is the probability of an occurrence during the 12 months following the assessment. The regulations list the likelihood ranges and the representative scale points for each range used in calculating the hazard score[12]
  • location - a site within a dwelling where a hazard would threaten the health or safety of an occupier or potential occupier
  • occurrence - is an event or period of time exposing an individual to a hazard.
  • representative scale points - these are scores used in the HHSRS formula. The method of calculation is set out in the Operating Guidance and the regulations
  • risk - the combination of the likelihood of an occurrence and the spread of harms resulting, which is expressed as the hazard score or rating
  • vulnerable group - the age range of people for whom the risk arising from a hazard has from data been assessed as greater than for any other age group in the population. Vulnerability to particular hazards is restricted to age groups for rating purposes whether they are in occupation or not. It does not extent to vulnerability for other reasons. The actual occupiers (if there are any) are ignored for the purposes of producing the rating, which allows an empty property to be rated. The actual occupiers are considered after the rating has been produced when deciding on the best course of action. In the regulations these are referred to as the relevant occupier and the vulnerable age groups for each hazard are listed.[13]

[1] s.1 Housing Act 2004.

[2] HHSRS Operating Guidance - Housing Act 2004: Guidance about inspections and assessment of hazards given under Section 9, February 2006.

[3] Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005 SI 2005/3208; Housing Health and Safety Rating System (Wales) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/1702 (W.164).

[4] Housing Health and Safety Rating System: Enforcement Guidance: Housing Act 2004 Part 1: Housing Conditions, February 2006.

[5] s.1(4) Housing Act 2004.

[6] s.2 Housing Act 2004.

[7] para 1.12 HHSRS Operating Guidance - Housing Act 2004: Guidance about inspections and assessment of hazards given under Section 9, February 2006.

[8] para 1.13-1.17 HHSRS Operating Guidance - Housing Act 2004: Guidance about inspections and assessment of hazards given under Section 9, February 2006.

[9] para 1.18 HHSRS Operating Guidance - Housing Act 2004: Guidance about inspections and assessment of hazards given under Section 9, February 2006.

[10] para 2.1-2.31 HHSRS Operating Guidance - Housing Act 2004: Guidance about inspections and assessment of hazards given under Section 9, February 2006.

[11] Sch.2 Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005 SI 2005/3208, restated in Annex C Housing Health and Safety Rating System Operating Guidance, ODPM, February 2006; and Sch.2 Housing Health and Safety Rating System (Wales) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/1702 (W.164).

[12] reg 6(2) Table 1 Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005 SI 2005/3208; reg 6(2) Table 1 Housing Health and Safety Rating System (Wales) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/1702 (W.164).

[13] reg 6(7) Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005 SI 2005/3208; reg 6(7) Housing Health and Safety Rating System (Wales) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/1702 (W.164).

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