The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) has been reviewed, so here’s what could change for assessing hazards in your rental properties.
HHSRS has been around since 2004 and ignore it at your peril. In short it outlines the hazards that may affect a property’s fitness for human habitation. Councils use it to check if a property has problems and whether works are needed. It is helpful a tool that we, as letting agents, can use to gauge any potential hazards in the properties we manage.
At the moment there are 29 hazards in the 185 pages
We have had the heads up that this system may soon be changing and that they are going to simplify things. The changes that are being suggested are as follows:
- Combining and reducing the number of hazards to assess from 29 to 21.
- Producing an easier way to band the results of assessments, moving towards a ‘traffic-light approach’, with descriptions such as ‘extreme’ or ‘moderate’.
- Publishing an easy-to-understand checklist to help initially assess serious hazards; e.g. ‘stairs must be safe, secure, in sound condition, free of defects and projections, well maintained’.
- Publishing new enforcement guidance.
- Analysing how digital assessments could link with existing databases, and reviewing training requirements.
- Reviewing the ‘fire’ hazard, to reduce the risk of fire in tall buildings, after the Grenfell disaster.
When could the changes come into play?
The review says that ‘new regulations will be necessary to bring the revisions to the HHSRS into force’. This will most probably be linked to the review of the Decent Home standard, which in turn is linked to the Renters Reform Bill which as yet has not received a second reading in the House of Commons.
As ever, devil in the detail. The main driver we can see is around mould in the property following the tragic death of Awaab Ishak. In future there will be more emphasis on the owner / agent having to prove that the property is being ventilated correctly.
Therefore, this will affect properties without trickle vents and working extractor fans in the bathroom and kitchen. As the review states: ‘there should be continuous low-level of background ventilation without the need to open windows’.
How the change of air will be measured and by whom is not made clear as yet. However, given that the policing of HHSRS lies with the local council, I expect it would be the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) that will be the first port of call. What we know is it is never good for the council or EHO decide you are not doing enough!
What we are doing
It looks like we may need to think about taking a more proactive approach to the property ventilation as the need seems to be moving toward a property being better able to cope with normal moisture without opening windows.
Our spot check visits do highlight where we are seeing mould building up. However, we are now looking at evolving these spot checks into a more detailed property visit where we could highlight issues such as trickle vents not being used or the extractor fans being in the off position. Time will tell if this is yet another headline grabber from the Department of Levelling Up or if it will become something that we need to work with.