November 12

Health and safety and buy-to-let properties

How housing health and safety ratings apply to buy-to-let investors

Health and safety rules and regulations don’t only apply to businesses. They apply to buy-to-let landlords and the properties they rent out. If your tenant believes that their home could put their health at risk, they can apply to the local authority to carry out a housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) risk assessment – and you could be in hot water. The ultimate sanction a local authority can make under the HHSRS regulations is to enforce demolition of your property.
In this article, you’ll learn why a tenant might apply for an HHSRS risk assessment and the sanctions that could be applied if your property is found to be hazardous to your tenants’ health.

What is HHSRS?

The HHSRS is a procedure used to assess the risks to the health and safety of those living in residential properties. If your tenants feel that you haven’t complied with a landlord’s obligations to maintain a fit and habitable property, they can complain to their local authority’s environmental health team to carry out an HHSRS risk assessment if they believe that the property is hazardous to their health and wellbeing.

What will be assessed?

There are 29 categories of housing hazard assessed under HHSRS. Each housing hazard is rated individually. Technically, this means that your property could be condemned for any single hazard.
Let’s take a look at the hazards assessed.

Physiological hazards:

  • Damp and mould growth
  • Excess cold
  • Excess heat
  • Asbestos and manufactured mineral fibres
  • Biocides
  • Carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products
  • Lead
  • Radiation
  • Uncombusted fuel gas
  • Volatile organic compounds

Psychological hazards:

  • Crowding and space
  • Entry by intruders
  • Lighting
  • Noise

Protection against infection

  • Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse
  • Food safety
  • Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage
  • Water supply for domestic purpose

Protection against accidents

  • Falls associated with baths
  • Falls on the level
  • Falls associated with stairs and steps
  • Falls between levels
  • Electrical hazards
  • Fire
  • Hot surfaces
  • Collision and entrapment
  • Explosions
  • Ergonomics
  • Structural collapse and failing elements

How hazards are assessed

The local authority will rate the hazards according to their seriousness, and then place them into bands from A to J. Those hazards in bands A to C are classed as Category 1 hazards, and are the most serious – with the potential to cause serious injury or death. Hazards in the other bands are less serious and classed as Category 2 hazards.

Examples of Category 1 hazards

There are many hazards that could fall into Category 1. Examples include:

  • Exposed electrical wiring
  • A broken boiler
  • Cold bedrooms
  • Leaking roofs
  • Mould
  • Vermin (e.g. rats, cockroaches, etc.)

What can the local authority do?

When making its risk assessment and considering the action to take, the local authority will take into account the risks to residents and the extra risk that may be posed by the hazard to young children, the disabled or the elderly.
For Category 1 hazards the local authority could:

  • Serve a demolition order, requiring you to demolish the building
  • Declare a clearance area, demanding the house to be cleared of residents immediately

For Category 1 and 2 hazards, the local authority could:

  • Serve a prohibition order, putting restrictions on access to all or part of the property or limiting the number of people able to live there.
  • Serve an improvement notice, ordering certain repairs to be made with a time stipulation on when improvements must be completed. If you don’t comply, you can be prosecuted.
  • Take emergency action, doing any work needed themselves and then charging you for it.
  • Serve a hazard awareness notice, warning you that they are aware of a hazard but propose no further action at the present time.

What happens if you don’t comply with a local authority notice?

If you don’t comply with a local authority notice and are prosecuted, you are likely to be fined as landlord Richard Hadley found out to his cost. After failing to comply with an improvement notice served on him for a property he rented out in Redditch, Mr Hadley was fined £2,130, and ordered to pay £1,620 in costs and a victim surcharge of £170 – a total amount of £3,920.

Take tenants’ repair reports seriously

The HHSRS regulations reinforce the need for landlords to take repair reports seriously. For example, if a tenant reports a loose bannister on the stairs and you didn’t make the repair promptly, they could contact their local authority and request an HHSRS risk assessment. This hazard would come under ‘protection against accidents’, be classed as ‘falls associated with stairs and steps’ and classified as a Category 1 hazard.
If the local authority then issues you with an improvement notice, you may find it difficult to evict your tenant if needed, as they may claim the eviction was made because of the complaint they made.
Additionally, if an accident occurs in your property after the repair has been reported and the local authority has served an improvement notice, it is questionable whether your public landlord insurance would cover any claims against you.
Our repair reporting system makes it easy for tenants to report repairs and ensures we are fully aware of the seriousness of the repair required. This means we can assign maintenance to it swiftly, and help ensure that our landlords do not fall foul of the HHSRS regulations. For effortless property management, contact Ezytrac today  +44 0 1522 503 717.
Live with passion,
Brett Alegre-Wood


buy-to-let property, housing health and safety ratings

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