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HHSRS Inspection: What It Is, What to Expect and How to Avoid One

This article explains what the HHSRS is, some upcoming changes to the system, how the process works and how you can reduce the number of hazards in your rental properties.

Published 30 November 2023

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Highlights:

  • The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is used by local authorities to assess rental accommodation.

  • It identifies and categorises common property hazards that could harm residents. 

  • If property hazards exist in a property, the local authority can take action against the landlord and issue a notice against them.

  • There are two main ratings for hazards. 

  • Category 1 hazards present a risk to life or severe injury. Councils must take action if one of these is identified. 

  • Category 2 hazards are less severe. Councils have the power to take action if one is identified. 

  • Several reforms to the HHSRS system have recently been announced. 

  • The best way to avoid an HHSRS inspection is to check your property for hazards and make repairs regularly.


If a resident asks their landlord to deal with a health and safety issue in their home, most will address it as soon as possible.

But what can residents do if repairs are not made, or are not made to a good enough standard?

One option is to ask their local council to inspect the property using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.

Launched in 2006, the HHSRS is designed to help protect residents from hazards relating to rental properties.

It provides an inspection framework and a series of orders that councils can use to encourage or force landlords to deal with hazards at their properties. 

Landlords need to understand these hazards to avoid being reported and provide their residents with quality housing. 

This article explains what the HHSRS is, some upcoming changes to the system, how the process works and how you can reduce the number of hazards in your rental properties. 

What Is the HHSRS?

The HHSRS is a system used by local authorities to assess rental accommodation.

It identifies and categorises common property hazards that would harm residents. 

Some examples of hazards are:

⚠️Damp and mould that could be hazardous to health.

⚠️Broken doors and windows that stop the resident from securing the property.

⚠️Damaged stairs or floorboards that could be tripped on.

If hazards are present in a property, the local authority can take action against the landlord. We’ll explain what they can do later in this article.

Any resident can request an HHSRS inspection of their home, and the local authority has the power to take action against:

  • Private rented accommodation landlords

  • Housing association landlords

  • Owner-occupiers

Councils can perform HHSRS inspections on their own properties but cannot take action against themselves. Instead they can refer themselves to the Housing Ombudsman.  

Therefore, it’s more common for HHSRS inspections to be performed on privately rented accommodation. 

How is an inspection requested?

There are four main ways HHSRS inspections are requested:

  • A Neighbourhood Renewal Assessment (NRA) says that all properties in a particular area require inspections. 

  • An individual has requested it. This could be the resident or a concerned third party, like a relative. 

  • An organisation like Citizens Advice has complained on behalf of an individual. 

  • A property owner has requested it to help them deal with its state of repair. 

Unoccupied properties can be inspected under the HHSRS. If an unoccupied building is deemed unsafe by an HHSRS inspection, it can only be rented out once the hazards are rectified. 

What is a hazard?

A hazard is anything related to the property that could harm the resident’s physical and mental health or safety. 

Hazards are banded from A (life-threatening) to J (minor). These bands are divided into two categories:

⚠️A – C, Category 1: Serious hazards that could cause death, serious illness or life-changing injuries. Councils are legally required to take action when these hazards are identified. 

⚠️D – J Category 2: Less severe hazards. The council can take action against landlords on these hazards, but is not compelled to do so by law.  

There are 29 hazards in total, with four subgroups. These are:

🤒 Physiological hazards

1. Damp and mould growth

2. Excess cold

3. Excess heat

4. Asbestos and manufactured mineral fibre

5. Biocides

6. Carbon monoxide and flue combustion products

7. Lead

8. Radiation

9. Uncombusted fuel gas

10. Volatile organic compounds

🧠 Psychological hazards

11. Crowding and space

12. Entry by intruders

13. Lighting

14. Noise

🦠 Infection hazards

15. Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse

16. Food safety

17. Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage

18. Water supply

🤕 Potential accidents

19. Falls associated with baths etc.

20. Falls on level surfaces

21. Falls on stairs or steps

22. Falls between levels

23. Electrical hazards

24. Fire

25. Hot surfaces

26. Collision and entrapment

27. Explosions

28. Ergonomics; position and use of amenities

29. Structural collapse and falling elements

What are the Upcoming Changes to the HHSRS?

On 7 September 2023, the government announced it intends to reform HHSRS inspections. This is the first change to the system since its introduction in 2006.


These reforms are being made as part of the broader Decent Homes Standard review.  

The review recommended the following changes:

🔎 Reducing the number of hazards from 29 to 21.

🔎 Implementing a more straightforward banding system.

🔎 Adding new baselines to determine if a property contains serious hazards. This will be presented as a checklist, making the risk assessment easier to understand.

🔎 New statutory operating and enforcement guidance and case studies for all stakeholders. The case studies will show high, medium and low-risk hazards. This will make the system more accessible for non-experts, specifically residents. 

🔎 Combining the 'Fire' and 'Explosions’ hazards to ensure the practical assessment of fire risks in tall buildings.


Further regulation for HHSRS

The government has said it will introduce new regulations to prescribe and enforce the changes to the HHSRS process. However, these will not be implemented until after the broader Decent Homes Standard review is completed.  

The HHSRS Process

Here’s how the HHSRS process works:

Step one: Complaint

If one of your residents is concerned about a hazard in their home, they should and usually will speak to you first.

If this happens and it’s your responsibility to deal with the hazard, you should repair it as soon as possible. 

If you don’t, or the repair is not made to a good standard, your resident will likely complain to their local authority. 

If your resident has already complained to you, the council may schedule an HHSRS inspection if they think a hazard might be present. 

Landlords are not responsible for hazards arising from their residents’ belongings. 

Step two: Inspection

An environmental health officer (EHO) will ask to visit your property to perform an inspection. It is a criminal offence not to grant them access when requested. 

This usually means you or your resident must be present to let the EHO in. 

The EHO’s primary purpose is to determine if hazards are present and if there is a risk of harm because of them. 


They consider three things:

  • The risk of harm to the dwelling’s occupiers

  • What deficiencies in the property could lead to a hazard

  • How likely it is that the resident will experience harm from the hazard over the next 12 months.

The age of any residents is also considered when assessing the likelihood of them being harmed. 

For example, children or older people are much more likely to injure themselves on a damaged staircase. It will be rated as a more significant hazard if people in these age groups are present.

The inspection is visual, which sometimes means the EHO cannot identify the cause of the hazard. For example, if there is penetrating damp in a bedroom they cannot get on the roof to investigate. 

In these cases, a separate survey may be required.

What will be assessed?

Here’s a quick checklist of what the EHO will inspect:

  • Water, gas and electricity: Landlords must provide the proper equipment for these utilities. This equipment should be correctly installed. 

  • Personal hygiene: Landlords must provide proper hand wash basins, showers and/or baths. 

  • Sanitation and drainage: All toilets, basins, drains, pipes, guttering and inspection chambers should be in good working order.

  • Food safety: This includes:

    • Sinks

    • Draining boards

    • Worktops

    • Cooking facilities or cooker points

    • Cupboards and shelving

    • Food storage facilities or fridge/freezer space

  • Ventilation, including:

    • Airbricks

    • Trickle vents

    • Windows

  • Space and water heating: This covers any fitted space-heating appliance. Moveable heaters owned by the resident will not be assessed. It also covers installations for heating the hot water system, for example, the boiler. 

Step three: Action

Once an inspection has been conducted, the local authority must decide what action to take. 

It will consider three factors:

  • The rating assigned to any hazards.

  • If the local authority has a duty to act or the power to act.

  • The best way to deal with the hazard, according to housing enforcement guidance.

The local authority can take several enforcement actions, including:

  • Financial

  • Practical

  • Informal

If the local authority has inspected your property and hazards have been identified, it’s likely to informally agree with you what repairs must be made.

If you can’t agree or you refuse to make the repairs, the council may take enforcement action. For this to happen the council needs to provide you with a reason for taking action as well as serve you with one of the following notices:

Hazard awareness notice

This is usually used for category 2 hazards. It will explain what the hazard is and how to repair it. 

It does not give you a timescale in which to make the repairs. However, if you don’t then your resident may complain to their local authority again. 

Hazard awareness notices are also issued for category 1 hazards if you have agreed to fix the problem quickly, or if no one considered as vulnerable is living at the property.

Improvement notice

An improvement notice is similar to a hazard awareness notice, except it also gives you a deadline to make repairs. 

It will include:

  • Details of the hazard and underlying problem.

  • How you should fix it.

  • When you need to have started and finished the repairs by.

The earliest the local authority can ask you to start the repair work is four weeks after you receive the notice. 

Improvement notices tend to be used to deal with more severe category 1 hazards. But councils can also issue them for a category 2 hazard, for example, if a landlord fails to address issues highlighted in a hazard awareness notice. 

Protection against ‘revenge evictions’

A Section 21 eviction allows landlords to evict residents for certain reasons, even if they don’t break their tenancy agreement terms. 

In the past, unscrupulous landlords have used this to evict residents for complaining about poor housing conditions. 

Under the Housing Act 2004, you cannot evict a property’s tenant for six months after being issued an improvement or emergency works notice. 

 

Emergency remedial action

Councils can issue an emergency remedial action if there is a risk of severe impending harm due to a hazard and getting the landlord to fix it will take too long. 

This allows the council to carry out the repairs and charge them to the landlord. 

The council must notify the landlord seven days before starting the work. 


Prohibition order

This is used to prevent people from living in all or part of your property and restrict the number of people who can live there.

There are two typical situations where these orders are used:

  • Overcrowded properties.

  • When the resident can't continue living at the property while repairs are being made. 

If the hazard is particularly bad, the order can be implemented immediately. 


Demolition order

In the most severe cases, a council can put a demolition order on a property. A good example is if the building’s structure is at imminent risk of collapse. 

However, to do this the local authority needs to consider several factors, such as:

  • Can it re-house occupants?

  • Can the problem be put right?

  • Is there a demand for the dwelling?

  • What could the cleared site be used for?

  • What impact would demolishing the property have on the local environment?

  • How suitable is the area for residential occupation?

  • What impact will the cleared site have on the neighbourhood’s appearance?

  • What guidance the NRA gives.

A clearance order

If several buildings in an area have category 1 hazards, the council may issue a clearance order to clear the entire area.

This involves an even wider range of considerations similar to those for the demolition order. Legal and community stakeholder implications should be considered. 


How to Avoid Hazards in Your Properties

The best way to deal with an HHSRS inspection is to avoid getting one in the first place. The government’s HHSRS guidance suggests a process landlords can use to minimise property hazards. 

Step one: Inspect the property

✔️Go from room to room and inspect all fixtures and fittings

✔️Check any common areas

✔️Inspect outdoor areas

✔️As you go, record any deficiencies you see


Step two: Decide if deficiencies represent hazards

Decide if any deficiencies constitute one or more of the 29 hazards by asking if the deficiency will increase:

✔️The likelihood of harm to residents?

✔️The severity of harm to residents?

Step three: Take remedial action

✔️Identify what repairs are needed to reduce risks

✔️Timetable those repairs 

✔️Prioritise fixing immediate hazards

Step four: Keep records

✔️Record any works carried out

✔️Record the date when repairs were completed

Step five: Re-inspect

✔️Confirm that the hazards have been removed or minimised

Step six: Repeat

✔️Reinspect your property regularly and repair any issues you find

✔️Older properties may need more regular inspections

✔️You may also wish to reinspect the property between tenancies

 

Fix Hazards Fast with EVO

Most landlords are good at performing inspections, but they are not always experts in property repairs and maintenance. 

That’s where EVO can help. You can outsource all repairs and maintenance to our fully managed, hassle-free end-to-end digital solution. 

Our easy-to-use digital solution features:

  • Online dashboard: All your people, places, repairs, and service history all in one place, with a real-time calendar, messaging, and secure document storage.

  • Helpdesk: There to help with all repair and planned maintenance needs fast.

  • Repairs: Certified tradespeople are available 24 hours a day, ensuring a fast response and quality workmanship.

  • Reminders: Ensuring nothing falls through the cracks.

  • Service history: All jobs and services are logged and easily accessible, with completion notes and images.

  • Compliance: Gas safety compliance, electrical testing, and more, with digital records and service reports all in one place.

  • Emergency cover: Providing trustworthy 24/7 emergency services in case of serious issues. 

    Get in touch to learn how we can help you manage your inspection and repairs more effectively.

PHOTO BY EVO

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