You may have your EPC, Gas Certification, PAT certificates and as far as you are concerned compliant with Health & Safety regulations... Think again.
One new member recalled what had happened recently which prompted them to join First Assist.
The Landlord received a letter from the Local Authority informing them that an inspection would be carried out under the Housing Act 2004, Part 1.
As far as the Landlord was concerned the property was legally compliant. No problems they thought as everything was in order.
After the inspection the Local Authority issued a report based on HHSRS (Housing Health & Safety System) of works to be carried out and informed them the works must be completed within 28 days. The authority went on to say they would take formal enforcement action if ignored. Failure to comply would lead to a fine and constitute a criminal offence.
The inspection identified issues that the landlord was not aware constituted hazards.
Issues to be addressed were….
- All rooms to have a minimum of 2 double sockets.
- Mains wired smoke alarms in living rooms and top of the stairs (they stated the battery powered ones supplied by the local Fire Service were inadequate).
- Mechanical means of ventilation achieving at least 3 air changes an hour in the bathroom.
- Child safety locks to be fitted to the first floor windows.
As you can imagine this was an unpleasant and costly surprise to the landlord and one all landlords should look to avoid.
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) have introduced a new risk assessment system. This will affect all owners and landlords, including social landlords. It focuses on identifying and tackling the hazards that are most likely to be present in housing to make homes healthier and safer to live in.
The system can deal with 29 hazards relating to:
Dampness, excess cold/heat
Pollutants e.g. asbestos, carbon monoxide, lead
Lack of space, security or lighting, or excessive noise
Poor hygiene, sanitation, water supply
Accidents - falls, electric shocks, fires, burns, scalds
Collisions, explosions, structural collapse
Each hazard is assessed separately, and if judged to be 'serious', with a 'high score', is deemed to be a category 1 hazard. All other hazards are called category 2 hazards.
A risk assessment looks at the likelihood of an incident arising from the condition of the property and the likely harmful outcome. If a local authority discovers category 1 hazards in a home, it has a duty to take the most appropriate action.
Who does it affect?
The Housing Health and Safety Rating system (HHSRS) affects all owners and landlords, including social landlords.
The private sector contains some of the worst housing conditions and owners and landlords should be aware that any future inspections of their property will be made using HHSRS.
Private landlords and managing agents are advised to assess their property to determine whether there are serious hazards that may cause a health or safety risk to tenants. They should then carry out improvements to reduce the risks.
Public sector landlords also need to incorporate HHSRS into their stock condition surveys. To be decent, homes should be free of category 1 hazards.
Tenants should be aware of the new approach taken by local authorities to deal with bad housing conditions. They still have discretion over the action they take but they are more likely to prioritise cases where there is some evidence of serious hazards.
How does it work?
A risk assessment looks at the likelihood of an incident arising from the condition of the property and the likely harmful outcome. For example, how likely is a fire to break out, what will happen if one does?
The assessment will show the presence of any serious (Category 1) hazards and other less serious (Category 2) hazards.
To make an assessment, local authority inspectors will make reference to the HHSRS 'Operating Guidance' and 'Enforcement Guidance'. During an inspection they may take notes manually or may use a programme on a hand held computer.
How is it enforced and what are the penalties?
If a local authority discovers category 1 hazards in a home, it has a duty to take the most appropriate action. Local authorities are advised to try to deal with problems informally at first.
If this is unsuccessful, the council could serve notice on a landlord requiring him or her to carry out improvements to the property. For example, by installing central heating and insulation to deal with cold, fix a rail to steep stairs to deal with the risk of falls, or repair a leaking roof. Local authorities also have powers to prohibit the use of the whole or part of a dwelling or restrict the number of permitted occupants. Where hazards are modest they may serve a hazard-awareness notice to draw attention to a problem. Where an occupier is at immediate risk, the authority can take emergency remedial action.
A property owner who feels that an assessment is wrong can discuss matters with the inspector and ultimately will be able to challenge an enforcement decision through the Residential Property Tribunal.
Failure to comply with a statutory notice could lead to a fine of up to £5,000 and/or the council carrying out work in default
Where can I get more information?
Give The First Assist Team a call they will be happy to help. Tel 0800 083 0122