Letting agents urged to take part in government health and safety review

Letting agencies can help to shape the future of the rental sector by completing a survey as part of the government’s two-year review of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), according to PayProp.

The rental payment provider adds that agents are free to share the survey with landlords and, via a different link, with tenants, as their input is also being sought by the government.

The HHSRS provides local authorities with the means to check health and safety in residential properties, information they can then use to advise or order landlords to carry out improvements.

The landlord/letting agent survey is available here and the tenant survey is available here. Both surveys close on March 31 2021.

Shaping the future of the rental sector

The HHSRS, which was introduced in 2006 under the Housing Act 2004, helps local authorities flag hazards in residential properties, including damp, overcrowding and fire risks.

The hazards are ranked in categories, with a ‘category 1’ hazard being the most dangerous type – those that could cause death or serious injury. The review will look at a range of issues, including whether new minimum standards are needed, whether tenant and landlord guidance needs to be updated, a review of the fire safety hazard and the development of updated examples of different hazards.

It will also review the HHSRS Operating Guidance and Enforcement Guidance, and determine whether existing hazards could be combined or removed.

“Completing the HHSRS survey is valuable for letting agencies, landlords and tenants as their input could have a bearing on future private rental housing standards,” says Neil Cobbold, Chief Sales Officer at PayProp.

“The rental sector has evolved considerably since the HHSRS was introduced in 2006. Therefore, it’s vital that the system is updated to reflect the current market. Letting agents can now help develop smarter, more realistic regulation for rented homes.”

Cobbold adds that sub-standard homes are still an issue in the private rental sector. The most recent English Housing Survey found that 13% of privately rented properties contained a category 1 hazard.

Moving ahead after first stage of HHSRS review

The current review is the second phase of the government’s plan to update the HHSRS. The first phase was launched in October 2018, although no results or updates were made public.

“These surveys inviting feedback from all stakeholders are a positive step forward and it suggests an outcome of the HHSRS review may be on the horizon,” says Cobbold.

He notes that the private rental sector (PRS) has grown rapidly since 2006 and now accounts for approximately a fifth of all households. During this time, tenant demographics have also changed, with more families and older people renting than ever before.

“It’s crucial that the HHSRS is updated to ensure guidance on property hazards is brought in line with current expectations and standards,” he explains.

“New regulations introduced since the first phase of the HHSRS review, such as the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act and requirements for mandatory electrical checks in rental properties, could also affect how property hazards are monitored in the future.”