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Housing Health and Safety Hazard Rating System Policy

Enforcement Policy for the Housing Health and Safety Hazard Rating System (Housing Act 2004)

Introduction and Background

We have a general enforcement policy entitled Swale Borough Council Enforcement Policy - Housing & Environmental Health, which followed the national non-statutory concordat on enforcement and outlined steps we would take when any enforcement action was undertaken so as to be fair and consistent. The following policy and procedure adds to the existing policy and seeks to update the housing element due to changes in the law and the published statutory regulators code.

Housing Act 2004 - Our Enforcement Policy for the Housing Health and Safety Hazard Rating System dated March 2009

The Housing Act 2004 Part 1 replaced the old fitness standard contained in the Housing Act 1985. The new system contained in the 2004 Act is designed to be a more targeted and proportional system reflecting the latest understanding of health and safety risks in both houses in multiple occupation and single household properties.

The newer rating system is based upon the calculation of risk of harm to a person using the dwelling. For example, a damaged floorboard (a fault) could contribute to the hazard of falls on the level. A hazard score of the perceived risk would be given based on the probability of an occurrence and the likely range of harm outcomes should it occur.

The data used in assessing risk are based on national statistics on the probability of an incident occurring. For example a hazard score of 1,000 or more implies that the risk of death is equivalent to 1 in 1000. Research undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive indicates this is generally held to be an unacceptable risk. Hazard scores are be placed into bands A to J, with A being the most serious. Bands A, B and C (Category 1) are scores above 1000 (the serious hazards). Bands D, E and F are for scores between 100 and 1000. G, H, J are below 100. (bands D and below are category 2)

We are required to use the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) as the basis for tackling the worst housing conditions within the borough.

The aims and objectives of the service are therefore to:

The Private Sector Housing team works reactively and proactively to achieve these in the following ways.

Reactively the service will respond to:

Proactively the service will:

In exercising their duties and other functions, officers will seek to do so in a firm but fair, open and consistent and helpful way. Any enforcement action will be compliant with relevant legislation and guidelines in line with the principles of good enforcement outlined in the main enforcement policy. The policy deals with the practical application of enforcement procedures that will be used to achieve statutory housing and environmental standards. It sets out what owners, landlords, their agents and tenants of private sector properties can expect from officers.

Enforcement, in the context of this policy is not limited to formal enforcement action such as prosecution, but includes for example, the inspection of premises for the purpose of checking compliance with legislation and the provision of advice.

This enforcement policy seeks to support our corporate aims, objectives and strategies with respect to private sector housing, and to promote efficient and effective approaches to regulatory inspection and enforcement, which improve regulatory outcomes without imposing unnecessary burdens. This is in accordance with the Regulators Compliance Code.

The Policy

(Swale Borough Council Enforcement Policy for the Housing Health and Safety Hazard Rating System - Housing Act 2004)

1. This 'document' sets out how we use these enforcement powers to ensure safe and healthy environments in Swales housing sector.

The significant issues in addition to our statutory duties under the 2004 Act are that we will:

Procedural details of how these issues will be administered.

2. Taking Action on Category 2 Hazards.

In addition to our duty to take action where a category 1 hazard exists, we will exercise its discretion to take the most appropriate course of action where a category 2 Hazards exists, in the following situations:

In normal circumstances there will be a presumption that officers will consider taking action under the Housing Act where a hazard is rated at Band D or below unless that would not be the most appropriate course of action. A statement of reasons as required under section 8 of the Act will justify all enforcement action.

2.1. In circumstances where:

2.2. In exceptional circumstances the Housing Services Manager may authorize the most appropriate course of action to be taken.

3. The standard to which we have decided to improve hazards.

The Housing Act requires that when requiring works to improve the risk to health and safety from a category 1 hazard, the works specified must result in the hazard presented being reduced to a category 2 hazard.

3.1. Where any works for either a category 1 or 2 hazard are needed we will require works to standard that will prevent patch and mend repairs. To do this we will specify works that hold a hazard below a level that we would consider taking action for at least the next 12 months.

4. We will take enforcement action against a person where there is an unacceptable risk of injury or ill health due to a hazard outside of a persons control and where that it the most appropriate course of action in the circumstances.

These are some examples of this:

4.1. Where a tenanted property contains an actionable hazard the private housing service in the main only requires landlords including housing associations to carry out improvements or make changes to their properties.

4.2. In some circumstances we may be forced to require owners to carry out works to their own homes. This is normally when the state of their property could affect the health and safety of others outside of their household.

For example we may require an owner-occupier of a flat in a House in Multiple Occupation to provide a fire door and smoke detector linked to a communal alarm system to provide safe means of escape in case of fire.

4.3. Where we believe it is more appropriate for someone to pursue their own private action to remedy the situation we will inform them of this.

For example where a leaseholder is in dispute with their freeholder we would normally expect both parties to resolve any issues of disrepair themselves using their leasehold agreements and or the associated Leasehold legislation. We would only normally consider taking action in circumstances where these avenues have been exhausted.

4.4. Where there is an actionable hazard due to noise between dwellings we believe that the most appropriate course of action would normally be to a Hazard Awareness Notice.

5. We will agree to use its powers to make charges for taking enforcement action.

We had power to make charges for serving formal notices under the Housing Act 1985. The charges could be levied where there was no adequate response to informal requests to carry out works, where there was a serious disrepair issue that requires immediate formal action or where there was previous non-compliance with notices served by us.

The Housing Act 2004 amends those provisions to allow us to charge for:

Charges will be determined on the basis of the actual time spent by officers on the chargeable activities and the appropriate hourly rate for those officers.

5.1. It is proposed that we charge for taking enforcement action using similar principals i.e. that charges are only made where:

A formal notice is required to remove a serious threat to health and safety unless the risk was outside of the control of the person responsible for carrying out the works to remove the health and safety risk or;

There is evidence of previous non compliance with Housing Act or other related legislation within the last year or;

Within the last 5 years the person or company against whom the action is due to be taken was either personally or as senior officer of a company fined for a contravention of a Housing Act or other related legislation or;

No adequate action has been taken to comply with informal requests to take action or carry out works.

5.2. The government advises that we should take into account the personal circumstances of the person before charging them for the cost of enforcement action.

Our primary consideration for taking action is to protect people from significant hazards to their health and safety.

To assess someone's personal circumstances we will consider the vulnerability of the person we intend to charge.

5.3. We will consider the use of the definition of vulnerability as:

Someone who is 18 or over, who has and may need help with everyday living. This includes disabled people who have physical or sensory impairments, learning difficulties, who suffer from mental illness or emotional distress or are frail older people; and who for any other reason are unable to care for themselves or protect themselves from significant harm or exploitation.

We will also consider whether someone is financially vulnerable, vulnerable due to a medical condition or vulnerable due to a personal situation not covered by the above definition.

5.4. When making decision on whether to waive costs we will take the view that

5.5. These charges can be waived at the discretion of a Housing Services Manager or Authorized Enforcing Officer in consultation with the each other and evidence as to the reason(s) documented.

6. Swale Borough Council will follow the principals of its Enforcement Concordat and the Regulators compliance code (as specified in the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006) when making enforcement decisions.

We have signed up to the Governments Enforcement Concordat. The Housing and Environmental Services enforcement policy document explains our commitment to the principles of good enforcement.

These proposals build on that policy and the new code giving specific guidance for enforcement action in relation to the Housing Act 2004.

6.1. As a first principal we will take an informal approach to the enforcement of the Act.

This will not be appropriate where:

7. That the officers recognize a category 1 hazard will replace the fitness standard element in the Decent Homes standard.

Currently a property has to meet the fitness standard under the 1985 Housing Act (As amended) for it to meet the Decent Homes standard.

When the new Housing Act 2004 powers came into force they replaced the old fitness standard. This means from the date the new provisions came into force to pass the Decent Homes standard a property will need to be free of any category 1 Hazards.

The Decent Homes standard will not be used as enforcement standard.

8. Taking action against Registered Social Landlords (RSLs).

RSLs are required to meet the Decent Homes standard by 2010. RSLs should have an improvement program in place to improve their stock to this standard.

Where RSLs can demonstrate that they have already programmed the improvement works which have been identified as requiring action then officers must take this into account before taking formal enforcement action.

8.1. In all cases officers should follow the principles of the enforcement concordat detailed in section 6 above.

This means that formal action can be taken where:

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