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An Improved Housing Health and Safety Rating System Is in the Offing

Posted on 26th October 2023 in Dispute Resolution

Posted by

Joanne Young

Senior Associate & Solicitor
An Improved Housing Health and Safety Rating System Is in the Offing

The majority of people involved in the rented housing sector (both private and public) in England will encounter the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (“HHSRS”) from time to time.

Introduced pursuant to the Housing Act 2004 as a replacement to a previous ‘housing fitness system’, the HHSRS provides the framework for the assessment of risks and hazards that may exist within a residential property.

Risk-Based Assessment

Rather than the ‘pass or fail’ system that had existed previously, the HHSRS provides for a risk-based approach, with a property being assessed against a list of 29 potential hazards and then a numerical score based on risk is then produced. The higher the score, the higher the risk of harm.

User-Friendliness Challenges

It is fair to say that the current system is not particularly ‘user-friendly.’ In the scoping review and consultation into the current system, conducted in 2018 and 2019, even local authority officers – the very people who conduct the assessments - reported finding the system “complicated to apply and full assessments were resource intensive.” For landlords and tenants, particularly those who have not encountered the system previously – it can be an utter mystery.

Government's Response

The abovementioned consultation was followed by a formal, 2-year review conducted by external researchers on behalf of the Government. The Government has now indicated that new regulations will be made to bring into law many of the recommendations made. Those hoping for a much-simplified system may be disappointed; the proposals are to reduce the current list of hazards from 29 to 21, to introduce simpler score banding and a series of “baselines that can be used to make an initial assessment of whether a property contains serious hazards.”

Future of HHSRS

As a time when there is so much focus on ensuring rental properties are of a good and decent quality, change to the HHSRS seemed inevitable. Whether the Government’s proposals do produce a system that is more user-friendly will have to be seen. The Government is planning to bring forward regulation after the conclusion of the current Decent Homes Standard review – and so it could be many months before regulations are brought forward. 

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