Total: £0.00

picture of telephone  click icon for access to housing law in practice reference manual for membersMailing ListTwitterFacebook  YouTube

When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Linking Health and Housing: A Recap of our Seminar

On Tuesday 17th May, Housing Rights hosted a policy seminar on tools for raising standards in housing. We gathered a panel of expert speakers to discuss options for raising housing standards, in light of the Department for Communities’ ongoing review of the Housing Fitness Standard.

‘Housing Health and Safety Rating System’ – Prof. David Ormandy

Our first speaker was Professor David Ormandy from Warwick University, former Head of the World Health Organisation’s Collaborating Centre for Housing Standards and Health at the University of Warwick.

Professor Ormandy led the development of the original ‘Housing Health & Safety Rating System’ (HHSRS), and has contributed to the implementation of this standard in England & Wales. (The standard has since also been adopted in the United States.) Professor Ormandy briefed attendees on the risk-based approach of the HHSRS, whereby properties are graded depending on the extent to which they provide a safe and healthy environment to their occupants and visitors. He also provided insight into the practical benefits of this approach over other non-risked based systems used elsewhere as well as the potential of the system to evidence how improvements to housing can lead to better health outcomes and savings to the public purse.

After this presentation, Professor Ormandy took questions from attendees concerning the potential cost implications of implementing the HHSRS in Northern Ireland, and lessons learned from the roll-out of the Standard in England & Wales.

Professor David Ormandy's Presentation

‘Property Licensing in Newham’ – Russell Moffatt

Attendees then heard from Russell Moffatt, an Environmental Health Practitioner for Newham Borough Council in London.

Russell presented to the seminar on Newham Council’s experience of implementing landlord licensing, and the success of licensing as an enforcement mechanism to raise standards in the Private Rented Sector. After initially attempting unsuccessfully to raise housing standards through Housing Act notices and landlord accreditation, the Council introduced borough-wide licensing for all PRS properties in 2013. The introduction of “light-touch” licensing, where landlords pay £150 for a 5-year license enabling the Council to improve enforcement and intelligence of the sector, has been a considerable success. Licensing has helped inform the Council’s strategic approach to community planning; reduced the incidence of anti-social behaviour; improved enforcement of housing standards regulations; and resulted in increased recovery of Council Tax.

Russell Moffatt's Presentation

‘Belfast City Council’s experience of raising standards’ – Stephen Leonard

Our final speaker was Stephen Leonard, Environmental Health Manager at Belfast City Council.

Stephen spoke at length on the Council’s frustrations with the current Housing Fitness Standard, and the lack of any link between the current Standard and the impact of any problems on the occupier. For these reasons, Belfast City Council is supporting the HHSRS, which is an outcome- and risk-based model which focuses on the impact of housing on the occupiers. This should ideally be accompanied by a broader package of measures to support landlords, tenants and homeowners in adjusting to any new Standard.

Stephen also expressed the Council’s support for landlord licensing, which would help Councils tackle poor housing standards, anti-social behaviour and inequalities in housing. This could possibly be accompanied with incentives for landlords, to facilitate better standards and practice.

Stephen Leonards Presentation

Panel Q&A Session

The seminar then closed with a Q&A session with our panel. Areas of discussion included

  • evidencing any public savings arising from HHSRS;
  • the impact of landlord licensing on relative deprivation in Newham;
  • the potential of incentives for landlords in relation to licensing and housing standards;
  • how licensing has helped reduce the incidence of anti-social behaviour.

What happens next?

The Department for Communities’ initial consultation on the Housing Fitness Standard is open until June 10th.

For further information on the Health and Housing Safety Rating System, Housing Rights have a  Policy Briefing on the subject.

Landlord licensing is one proposal under consideration within the Department for Communities’ ‘Review of the Role and Regulation of the Private Rented Sector, that Housing Rights have responded to

Tagged In

Private Tenancies, Policy


Stephen Orme

This article was written on 18 May 2016. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.