Latest government updates on regulation of the private rented sector

Wednesday, September 13th, 2023 - Central Government

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On 7 September 2023, government published an update on the two-year Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) Review.

The HHSRS came into force in April 2006. It replaced the fitness for human habitation standard with a new risk based assessment methodology for addressing the health impacts of poor housing.

Fifteen years later, government commissioned RH Environmental to undertake a two-year review which concluded last year.

The review outcome, shared by government earlier this week, proposes minor adjustments to the HHSRS in England rather than fundamental change. The risk based approach to assessing housing conditions will stay the same, with minor adjustments to improve and simplify the system.

The proposed changes include:

  • Consolidating the current list of 29 hazards into 21 hazards, and some changes to simplify the assessment process.
  • New ‘baseline indicators’ to help landlords and agents undertake their own assessments.
  • Refreshed operating and enforcement guidance for HHSRS assessors, plus updated guidance for landlords and tenants.
  • Updated requirements on fire safety, with a particular emphasis on tall buildings.

Whilst the proposed changes will have limited practical impact on landlords and agents, updated guidance should help all parties to understand how the system works.

New regulations will be required to implement the proposed changes, with the process likely to be delayed until after the conclusion of the decent homes standard review. Whilst this could happen in April 2024, the implementation process might get delayed until after the next general election.

The HHSRS Review update can be read here.

New damp and mould guidance

Separate to the HHSRS review, on 7 September 2023 the government published new guidance on damp and mould for social and private sector landlords. The guidance follows the tragic death of 2-year-old Awaab Ishak in 2020 due to mould in his home rented from a social landlord.

Rather than introduce new legislation, the guidance summarises current legislative powers for addressing damp and mould including:

  • Housing Act 2004 (HHSRS)
  • Environmental Protection Act 1990 (statutory nuisance)
  • Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018
  • Decent Homes Standard (currently restricted to social housing)
  • Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 (minimum energy efficiency standards)

The guidance offers advice on developing clear and simple processes for reporting issues with damp and mould, with large housing providers expected to have more comprehensive reporting systems.

It explains the steps landlords should take to investigate and address damp and mould to ensure tenants’ health and wellbeing. It includes checklists for internal and external deficiencies, heating and ventilation. 

Where more in-depth investigative work is required, the guidance highlights the wide range of professional advisors that landlords could approach for assistance.

Once remedial work has been completed, it highlights the importance of arranging a follow up visit after 6 weeks to assess whether the remedial work has been effective. 

The guidance is likely to be a useful resource for landlords and agents when responding to tenant complaints about damp and mould. Unfortunately, there is no damp and mould booklet. At present, the guidance can only be read on the website (here).

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