The Housing Enforcement Policy sets out how we will use our powers. It has been amended to take into account the Housing Act 2004. The policy direction aims to inform the decisions made by the council on enforcement matters under the Housing Act 2004, ensuring decisions are fair.
The purpose of the policy direction is to assist officers in the discharge of their duties on behalf of the council, with particular regard to part one of the Housing Act 2004, in cases where they have decided to carry out a formal assessment of a hazard.
The Housing Act 2004 introduced a new way of assessing residential premises and new enforcement powers.
The new form of assessment is known as the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and it seeks to identify hazards to which any occupier or visitor might be exposed.
The new powers provide local housing authorities with the means of reducing or removing those hazards. The new powers are listed below.
Hazards with scores falling into Category one carry the most serious risk and the council must take action. Hazards that are less serious are classified as Category two and although the council is not required to take action, it may choose to do so.
A summary of the powers described in Part 1 Housing Act 2004
The housing health and safety hazard rating assessment
When assessing a hazard, a score is produced and the score will fall into one of two categories.
The action the council takes, and whether it takes any action at all in circumstances where it is not obliged to do so, will be governed by the facts of the case, Government guidelines, strategic aims, policy direction, and the professional judgement of individual officers.
The Corporate and Service Level Enforcement Policies
The council’s approach to enforcement is described in the Corporate Enforcement Policy. This is further explored in the Service Level Policy. Both policies provide the framework for decisions made in respect of Category one and Category two hazards.
In deciding which is the appropriate action to take under section five of the Act and how the discretionary powers under section seven should be used, local authorities must have regard to Secretary of State Guidance. Government guidance was published in February 2006: Housing Health and Safety Rating System Enforcement Guidance Housing Act 2004 Part one: Housing Conditions.
It is the primary document to be used by officers in determining what action to take in respect of individual cases. The policy direction gives further advice to officers but does not fetter individual discretion.
Strategic Aims and Objectives
The council has adopted main aims and these inform all its policy decisions. To help achieve its main aims the council has adopted a Housing Strategy with broad objectives and these are further refined in the Private Housing Strategy. Both the Housing Strategy and the Private Housing Strategy take into account influences such as Affordable Warmth, crime prevention, the need to reduce the number of vulnerable households living in non-decent homes, and neighbourhood renewal. In deciding the most appropriate course of action in any one case, officers will have regard to strategic aims and other relevant policies.
Category one hazards (band A-C)
1. Owner-occupied residential premises
The owner will be advised how to remove the hazard or reduce the risk, whichever is appropriate. For formal action a hazard awareness notice will be favoured, and any other form of action will tend to be exceptional. This direction is an acknowledgement that the owner-occupier is generally responsible for the risk, has the means or power to remove or reduce it and is the person exposed to it.
2. Privately rented and housing association residential premises
Non-decent homes: Category A with or without Category B hazards
Where a privately rented residential premises, or a housing association residential premises has been classified as non-decent using the Government’s current definition, and where there is a Category 1 and the removal of that hazard, or a reduction in risk will result in the dwelling being classified as decent, then as a general principle an improvement notice will be used to bring about the necessary works.
Category two hazards (band D-F)
1. Owner- occupied residential premises:
The owner will be advised how to remove the hazard or reduce the risk, whichever is appropriate. For formal action a hazard awareness notice will be favoured and any other form of action will tend to be exceptional. This direction is an acknowledgement that the owner-occupier is generally responsible for the risk, has the means or power to remove or reduce it and is the person exposed to it.
2. Privately rented and housing association residential premises:
Non-decent homes: with category B hazards
Where a privately rented or housing association residential dwelling has been classified as non-decent using the Government’s current definition, and where there is a Category two hazard and the removal of that hazard, or a reduction in risk will result in the dwelling being classified as decent, then as a general principle an improvement notice will be used to bring about the necessary works.
Other circumstances, which will increase the likelihood of the Council taking formal action in the case of band D-F hazards in privately rented residential dwellings and housing association residential dwellings.
- Where the occupant is “vulnerable” as defined for the purposes of Affordable Warmth or the Public Service Agreement -PSA7 (non-decent homes)
- Where the hazard is Entry by Intruders and the council is seeking to reduce burglary in the area
- Where the dwelling is a house in multiple occupation
- Where any hazard within a particular letting has the potential to impact upon another letting, for example, fire risks within a house in multiple occupation