The Council uses a risk assessment approach called the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS); the aim is to enable risks from hazards to health and safety in dwellings to be removed or minimised.
What are the hazards?
The system can deal with 29 different hazards ranging from damp and mould growth to electrical hazards.More detailed information about these hazards can be found in the Operating Guidance issued by the Department of Communities and Local Government:http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/hhsrsoperatingguidance
How are assessments made?
The assessment process is not just a question of spotting defects, but is all about risk assessment, outcomes and effects. When an inspector finds a hazard, two key tests are applied:
- What is the likelihood of a dangerous occurrence as a result of this hazard?
- If there is such an occurrence, what would be the likely outcome?
Category scores are calculated based on the level of assessed risk.The hazard score does not dictate the enforcement action to be taken, but councils have a duty to take action of some kind if they discover a Category One hazard (immediate risk to health) in a property, and have a power to take action to deal with a Category Two hazard (less immediate risk).
The Local Authority will be guided by three main points when making an enforcement decision:
- The HHSRS Hazard Rating
- Whether the Local Authority has a duty or power under the act to take action
- The best way of dealing with a hazard having regard to the enforcement guidance
Hazard Awareness Notice
- Advisory notice only
- Normally used only for Category Two hazards (unusually could be used for Category One hazards)
- Often used where properties are owner-occupied
- No time limit to commencement of remedial works
- No follow up inspection
- Used for Category One or Two hazards
- Remedial work must begin no later than 28 days after notice has been issued (unless the notice has been appealed)
- Suspension of notice is possible in certain circumstances e.g. where a person of a certain description begins or ceases to occupy the dwelling
- Agreed time period for remedial work to be completed
- Follow up visits to verify work has been completed
- Failure to comply with the notice is a criminal offence
- Used for Category One or Two hazards
- May prohibit use of part or all of a dwelling where hazards are identified e.g. serious threats to health and/or safety or to limit the number of occupants or prohibit the use of the dwelling to a particular group
- Suspension of the order is possible under certain circumstances e.g. where a person of a certain description begins or ceases to occupy the dwelling
- Contravention of the order is a criminal offence
- Used for Category One hazards only
- Used where there is considered to be an imminent risk to health and/or safety
- Allows Local Authority to carry out immediate remedial action. Can also serve an emergency prohibition order which would have immediate effect
- Demolition Orders - used for Category One hazards only
- Used where an imminent risk to health and/or safety has been identified
- Property is considered to be beyond repair at reasonable cost
Appealing a notice
An improvement notice or prohibition order can be appealed, normally within 21 days. Appeals are heard by a First-tier tribunal - Property Chamber which has replaced the previous role of the County Court in hearing appeals against such action.There is no restriction on the grounds of appeal but the main grounds for appeal are likely to be that :
- The deficiency referred to in the notice does not amount to a hazard;
- Someone else is responsible for carrying out work at the property and the notice should be served on that person; and/or
- The works required in the notice are unreasonable/excessive etc. and alternative works should be considered
The First-tier tribunal - Property Chamber can be flexible in allowing appeals and may also mediate where possible between local councils and owners/agents to try to resolve appeals without a formal hearing.If a notice is not complied with within the time allowed (usually 28 days), prosecutions for non compliance are heard in the magistrates' court. One defence that would be considered at this stage is that the notice was incorrectly served.
Landlord Property Inspection Process
We would advise landlords to regularly inspect their property to minimise the possibility of notices or orders being served on a dwelling.
1. Inspect Property
- Room-by-room checking elements, fixtures and fittings
- Check common parts and outside the building
- Record any deficiencies, disrepair or anything else that may give rise to a hazard
2. Deficiencies - Hazards
- Do the deficiencies contribute to any of the 29 hazards?
- Do deficiencies Increase the likelihood of an occurrence? Increase the severity of the harm?
3. Remedial Action/Work
- What needs to be done to remedy deficiencies and reduce risk?
- Carry out works according to severity
4. Keep Records
- Record programme of remedial work and completion date
- Retain all certificates and receipts
- Check all hazards have been removed/minimised
- Re-inspect property regularly, e.g. change of occupants, alterations to property, and in line with legislation