The Housing Act 2004 has changed the way property defects are legally defined. Properties are no longer viewed as fit or unfit for human habitation but are instead, now assessed for their safety against the new Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
The underlying principle of the HHSRS is:
Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
“A dwelling, including the structure and associated outbuildings and garden, yard and/or other amenity space, should provide a safe and healthy environment for any potential occupier or visitor”
(Office of the Deputy Prime Minister HHSRS Operating Guidance, February 2006)
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System replaces the fitness standard. HHSRS rates hazards that might be present in housing depending on the likelihood of occurrence and spread of harms from that occurrence for the most vulnerable groups associated with any particular hazard.
In all 29 different hazards are listed and rated. The scores are then banded in bands A-J with A-C being Category 1 hazards. The rest are Category 2 hazards. Local Authorities are under a duty to take action on receiving information relating to a Category 1 hazard.
This system affects:-
- Public Sector Landlords
- Private Landlords
- Local Authorities
HHSRS is based on statistical evidence gathered from governmental studies and surveys in order to form a national benchmark to compare potential harmful occurrences.
The HHSRS scorings are judgments made by the surveyor, based on an inspection of the whole dwelling, to generate a numerical score. The information observed during the inspection or survey is properly and accurately recorded in order to provide justifying evidence to support the surveyor’s judgments which form the basis of the numerical Hazard Score.
The Rating System assessment procedure requires, for each hazard, two judgments from the surveyor. These are an assessment of:-
The likelihood of occurrence
The likelihood over the next twelve months, of an occurrence that could result in harm to a member of the vulnerable age group. These likelihoods are derived from observed and recorded occurrences of common and rare harmful occurrences throughout the UK within the home and its grounds.
Spread of harms
The range of potential outcomes from such an occurrence divided into four distinct categories:-
- Class 1 – Extreme
- Class 2 – Severe
- Class 3 – Serious
- Class 4 – Moderate
These four classes of harm are those that would require medical attention and which have recorded statistics within the aforementioned governmental surveys ad studies.
The HHSRS is more logical than merely attempting to judge the severity of the hazard on a linear scale. It ensures that the severity of a threat that is very likely to occur but will result in a minor outcome can be compared with one which is highly unlikely to occur but with major harmful outcomes.
It also allows differentiation between similar hazards where the likelihood may be the same, but the outcomes very different.