LGA: HHSRS update doesn’t account for ‘statistical evidence’

Government review recommends an option assessing whether some hazard profiles can be removed or combined and to improve the guidance given to landlords and tenants.

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The government’s update of the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) doesn’t account for the statistical evidence that underpins the system, the LGA says.

“Successful regulation of the private rented sector requires an up-to-date system for assessing standards, so it is disappointing that government will not be reviewing and where necessary updating the statistical evidence that underpins the system,” said Cllr Martin Tett, LGA housing spokesman.

“This would better equip environmental health teams to protect tenants and support landlords,” he said.

Acknowledging the update will help improve councils’ ability to uphold PRS standards, Cllr Tett said it had to be seen in the context of councils in England facing an £8bn funding gap by 2025.

“(This) needs to be addressed in the Spending Review if councils are to be able to maintain a thriving private rented sector which fully protects tenants,” he said.

A wide-ranging consultation exercise was undertaken in February 2019 and showed that, while there was considerable support for the strong link between health and housing that the HHSRS provides, simplification of the assessment process would be welcomed by all stakeholders.

The recommendations of the scoping review set out three options for the second stage of the NHSRS review.

Option 1 would be the minimum required to improve, clarify and modernise the HHSRS assessment.

This would:

  • Review and update the current HHSRS Operating Guidance
  • Develop a comprehensive set of Worked Examples which encompass the range of hazards, illustrate the utilisation of standards and provide a spectrum of risks
  • Review the current HHSRS assessor training, the training needs of assessors and other stakeholders and establish a HHSRS competency framework

Option 2 includes Option 1 and will also address whether some hazard profiles can be removed or combined and to improve the guidance given to landlords and tenants.

This would:

  • Identify a simpler means of banding the results of HHSRS assessments so that they are clearer to understand and better engage landlords and tenants
  • Extend current and develop new standards that could be incorporated into the HHSRS assessment process
  • Amalgamation and/or remove of some of the existing hazard profiles
  • Investigate the use of digital technology to support HHSRS assessments and improve understanding and consistency for all stakeholders
  • Review existing guidance for landlords and property-related professionals and consider the introduction of a separate guide for tenants
  • Review and update the current HHSRS Enforcement Guidance: Housing Conditions and Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004

Option 3 would result in a comprehensive review of the HHSRS assessment process by building on options 1 and 2

This would:

  • Assess whether additional hazards, identified during the scoping review, should be added to the current list of hazard profiles. Consideration given to the ‘cocktail effect’ of multiple hazards on health
  • Comprehensive review of the statistical evidence which supports the HHSRS process including a consideration of whether regional data could form part of the system

Government recommends proceeding with Option 2 seeing this approach would make the system easier to understand for landlords and tenants, correct the disconnect between the HHSRS and other legislative standards, and facilitate the effective enforcement of housing standards by local authorities.

It is also conceded as the most cost-effective option.

In October 2018 the government launched a scoping review to consider whether HHSRS should be updated and, if so, to what extent.

This review has now reported with Minister for Housing and Homelessness Heather Wheeler confirming a comprehensive overhaul of HHSRS to begin later this year.

The intention is to make it simpler and quicker for councils to assess health and safety standards in rented homes, helping them to improve conditions for tenants and better tackle rogue landlords.

It is also pitched as directly addressing what MHCLG has been told by experts: that the system should be simplified, that minimum standards for common health and safety hazards should be developed and that digital solutions for inspecting rented houses and flats should be explored.

The HHSRS is used by councils to assess a range of potential hazards in rented properties, such as damp, excess cold and electrical faults as well as fire and falls.

But it hasn’t been updated in over 12 years and tenants, and landlords, tenants and local authorities say it is complicated and inefficient to use.

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