FREE CHAPTER from ‘A Practical Guide to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)’ by Rachel Coyle


This chapter describes what the Housing Hazards Rating System is


The Housing Hazards Rating System (‘the HHSRS’) was introduced by Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 and the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005 No 3208) which came into force on 6 April 2006.

It applies in England and Wales (Housing Health and Safety Rating System (Wales)

Regulations 2006 (SI 2006 No 1702) but does not apply in Scotland.

The HHSRS focuses on threats to health and safety. It is not concerned with quality, comfort and convenience but one’s physical and mental health may be considered1.

HHSRS does not set out minimum standards and is not a pass or fail test. It is designed to avoid potential hazards.

It encourages private and public sector landlords to review conditions regularly to ensure the property is safe and/or is made safe.

It is a risk-based assessment that identifies hazards in dwellings of all types of residential premises such as HMOs, buildings including converted flats and purpose-built blocks of flats. It is designed to evaluate the hazard/s and their potential effects on the health and safety of occupants and their visitors.

The most serious hazards are called Category 1 hazards and where these exist in a dwelling, it fails to meet the statutory minimum standard for housing in England.

Overview of Enforcement

Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 (‘the 2004 Act’) provides local authorities with duties and powers to tackle poor housing conditions. The 2004 Act is designed to enable local authorities to give priority to dealing with the greatest risks to health and safety in dwellings.

Although local authorities cannot take statutory enforcement action against themselves regarding their own stock, they are still expected to use the HHSRS to assess the condition of the stock and ensure dwellings meet the Decent Home Standard.

When local authority Environmental Health Officer (‘EHO’) inspect a dwelling, they will look for any risk of harm to an actual or potential occupier of a dwelling, which results from any deficiency that can give rise to a hazard.

The severity depends on the likelihood of that harm occurring or recurring or continuing over the forthcoming 12 months after an inspection. The factors that are considered include:

  1. The age of the occupier/s;

  2. Whether the dwelling is occupied by a person/s with vulnerabilities;

  3. The age and/or build of the dwelling;

  4. The impact and/or likelihood of a hazard/harm arising or continuing not just in the dwelling but in adjacent and/or nearby properties such as pests.

Local authorities are assisted by a HHSRS score system prescribed by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005 No 3208) (‘the 2005 Regulations’).

These regulations and score system is designed to assist the local authority in determining what remedy, if anything, is required to make the property safe.

Such inspections are not isolated to only occupied dwellings. Inspections may also be carried out in respect of vacant dwellings.

An EHO may find a serious hazard (i.e one in the higher scoring bands A-C, referred to as Category 1 hazards).

An EHO may also find in addition to r instead of a Category 1 hazard/s, a Category 2 hazard/s (i.e those in scoring bands D-J) These are judged to be less serious. Action can be taken in respect of Category 2 hazards is considered necessary.

When determining what action to take, a local authority is encouraged to consider what is necessary whilst having regard for its priorities and wider policies as well as what history, if any, a landlord has with complying with notices if served.


1 Housing Health and Safety Rating System Operating Guidance, ODPM, February 2006, p7