Housing Health and Safety Rating System

Understanding the law

The Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is the main enforcement tool used by local councils to address poor conditions in private rented homes. The powers, introduced under Part I of the Housing Act 2004, provide a mechanism for assessing the likelihood of serious harm and the range of health outcomes when considering 29 separate hazards in residential accommodation.

For serious category 1 hazards, councils are required to take some form of action. For less serious category 2 hazards, councils have discretion as to whether any intervention is needed.

The action taken by the council can include:

  • Serving an improvement notice;
  • Making a prohibition order;
  • Making an emergency prohibition order (category 1 hazard only);
  • Taking emergency remedial action (category 1 hazard only);
  • Making a demolition order;
  • Declaring a clearance area; or
  • Serving a hazard awareness notice.

Failing to comply with a legal notice issued is an offence and could result in prosecution and risk of a hefty fine. This is a complex area of law and housing enforcement officers attend a training course to ensure they fully understand the provisions before carrying out enforcement activity.

There are a whole host of guidance documents about the HHSRS that you may find useful, including:

House of Commons briefing on the HHSRS – 27 March 2015
An overview of the development and implementation of the HHSRS.

Renting a safe home – a guide to tenants by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) – March 2015
A laypersons guide to the HHSRS.

Guidance on HHSRS for landlords and other property professionals by DCLG – May 2006
This is the original detailed guidance for landlords that describes the HHSRS and explains how it works.

HHSRS Operating Guidance by DCLG – February 2006
The original detailed guidance for those involved in implementing the HHSRS, covering all 29 hazards and running to over 180 pages. 

HHSRS Enforcement Guidance by DCLG – February 2006
Guidance for enforcement officers about selecting the most appropriate enforcement option under the HHSRS.