The Housing Act 2004 came into effect on the 6th April 2006 and introduced a new way of assessing dwellings called the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). HHSRS replaced the old ‘fitness standard’ under the Housing Act 1985.
HHSRS assesses 29 hazard categories, information on the these can be viewed in the HHSRS operating guidance. Alternatively there is a helpful document for Landlord and property related professional which gives an overview on the HHSRS requirements.
HHSRS aims to provide a method which enables risks from hazards to health and safety in dwellings to be removed or minimised. The principle behind the system is that a dwelling, any associated outbuildings and outdoor amenity space should provide a safe and healthy environment for the occupants and any visitors to the dwelling. Any subject property should be free from hazards as far as reasonably practicable.
The subject property is inspected and any defects and deficiencies which may pose a hazard are noted. A score for each hazard is then calculated. The scoring depends on the severity of the hazard and its potential to cause injury to a person who is most vulnerable to that hazard. The greater the likelihood of harm occurring or the more severe the outcome, then the higher the score for the hazard will be.
The decision on which type of action can be taken is based on several factors including the hazard score, whether the Council has a ‘duty to act’ or ‘a power to act’ and a judgement on the best means of dealing with the hazard. Any action will be taken in line with Wirral Council's Enforcement Policy and also the HHSRS Enforcement Guidance.
The courses of action available to the Council are:
- Improvement Notice to carry out remedial work to remove or reduce Category 1 or 2 hazards within a property within a specified time period
- Prohibition Order to prohibit use of part or all of the dwelling where Category 1 or 2 hazards exist, it can also be used to prohibit use of the dwelling for certain purposes or certain groups of people.
- Hazard Awareness Notice for remote and minor Category 1 and 2 hazards where remedial action is desirable.
- Demolition Order to deal with dwellings where Category 1 and 2 hazards are present and demolition is deemed to be the most satisfactory course of action.
- Emergency Remedial Action to take action to remove Category 1 hazards which present an imminent risk of serious harm to the occupiers or other persons. The action can be taken by the Council at any time with a Notice served within 7 days.
- Emergency Prohibition Order to immediately prohibit the use of all or part of the dwelling where a Category 1 hazard presents an imminent risk of serious harm to the occupiers or other persons.
- Declaration of a Clearance Area to deal with dwellings where Category 1 and 2 hazards are present and clearance is deemed to be the most satisfactory course of action.
The council can take enforcement action and prosecute for lack of compliance with notices and orders. It is also able to charge and recover costs associated with taking enforcement action.
In the case of Housing Act Notices and any subsequent default works, Section 49 and Schedule 3 (part 3) of the Housing Act 2004 make provision for the council to recover reasonable costs incurred and, in terms of officer time, this has been set locally as £41.20 per hour for 2019-20. This charge is reviewed on an annual basis. Charges may be updated during the year and the council reserves the right to amend the schedule at any time.
Appeals against notices and orders are now made by applying to the First-tier Tribunal (previously the Residential Property Tribunal).