The Government has recently progressed in its review of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) – a pivotal step following the tragic passing of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in 2020 due to complications stemming from sustained exposure to mould in a housing association property.
Understanding the HHSRS
Established under the Housing Act of 2004, the HHSRS is a standard used by environmental health officers to evaluate hazards in a property that could potentially harm tenants.
It encompasses 29 distinct hazards including severe cold, the risk of falls, and damp and mould growth, which landlords must actively prevent in their properties.
The most critical of these are categorized as category one hazards. It is incumbent upon local authorities to inspect properties and enforce necessary improvements through the issuance of notices if such hazards are identified.
Recent updates to the HHSRS
Despite its foundational role in housing safety, the system has faced criticisms, mainly due to the lack of clear guidelines for landlords.
The Government has heeded these concerns, initiating a review in 2018 to enhance the system. The latest update has detailed the forthcoming changes which include:
- Reduction of hazards: Simplifying the categorisation by reducing the total number of hazards from 29 to a manageable 21.
- Clearer guidelines: Introducing straightforward baseline assessments for identifying serious hazards, accompanied by new statutory operating and enforcement guidance.
- Case studies: Releasing an array of case studies to facilitate hazard identification and mitigation for landlords.
- Fire safety: Establishing specific minimum standards focused on significantly reducing fire risks.
These alterations, expected to be enacted following the completion of the Decent Homes Standard review later this year, aim to offer clarity and ease the process of identifying and rectifying hazards pre-emptively, steering clear of enforcement situations.
Damp and mould
In addition to the general HHSRS updates, a special focus has been placed on damp and mould.
The Government has released a detailed report on the prevalence and enforcement activities surrounding damp and mould.
It estimates that 3.6% of properties in the private sector present a category one hazard relating to damp and mould.
In response to the findings, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities (DLUHC) has circulated comprehensive guidance for both social and private landlords to effectively handle damp and mould issues.
This guidance outlines:
- Health implications: Illuminating the potential health risks associated with damp and mould.
- Legal framework: Detailing the existing legal provisions governing damp and mould.
- Identification and mitigation: Offering strategies to identify and reduce damp and mould risks and avenues for energy efficiency funding.
- Landlord responsibilities: Highlighting the imperative role of landlords in addressing the fundamental causes of damp and mould without placing the blame on tenants.
We strongly recommend that everyone operating in the property sector acquaint themselves with these critical recommendations to foster healthier living environments for their tenants and abide by the expected standards of landlords.
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