Overview of the Healthy Home Rating System (HHRS)

What is the Healthy Home Rating System (HHRS)? The HHRS is based upon the successful Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) developed for the United Kingdom (UK). Professor David Ormandy of the University of Warwick (Coventry, England) was responsible to the UK government for the development program, and in 2006, the HHSRS was adopted in England as the prescribed method for evaluating risks posed to residents from conditions found in the home.

The HHRS follows the same qualitative approach to identifying health and safety hazards in the home as the UK's HHSR, using a risk-assessment methodology. The HHRS, therefore, is a system that rates hazards for their potential to harm residents (not a standard) and enables those risks to be removed or minimized.

About the HHRS
The HHRS addresses all the key issues that affect health and safety due to conditions in the home. The HHRS provides an analysis of just how hazardous a dwelling is and provides evidence and statistical information to assist assessors in making their judgments.

Each year, housing conditions in the US are implicated in thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses and injuries requiring medical attention. The HHRS provides a method of grading the severity of threats to health and safety in any dwelling. A dwelling can include a:

  • house

  • self-contained flat/apartment

  • non self-contained flat/apartment

  • a room rented within a dwelling or house

  • a room in a university hall or similar residential building

  • includes the means of access and shared or common rooms and facilities.

The key principle of the system is that a dwelling, including the structure and associated outbuildings and garden, yard and/or other amenity space, and means of access, should provide a safe and healthy environment for the occupants and, by implication, for any visitors.

The inspection process is a risk-based assessment and considers the effect on occupant health of any hazards in the property. Hazards are rated according to how serious they are and the effect they are having, or could have, on the occupants, that is, “the effect of the defect”. The basic principle is that the property should be safe and healthy for occupation.

The HHRS system also provides a means of comparing the risks associated with different types of hazard. Some are slow and insidious in their effect, like dampness and cold, while others are quick, such as falls. Some hazards are more likely to result in death (such as carbon monoxide or electrocution); others are very unlikely to cause death e.g. noise or poor layout of amenities.

It should be kept in mind that all properties contain hazards, for example stairs, electrical outlets etc. and it is not possible (or desirable) to remove all hazards. The emphasis should be to minimize the risk to health and safety as far as possible either by removing the hazard altogether or minimizing the effect, as appropriate. All references in this Overview to removing hazards should be read with this in mind.

The numbers (scores) that are a feature of the system are used to reflect assessors’ judgments; they also allow comparison of widely differing hazards and take account of the potential frequency of occurrence and severity of outcome. This allows several things to occur:

  1. Local housing and health departments know which hazards are most serious to the occupants and can prioritize funding to address these; and,

  2. Local policy makers can identify which areas of the community (because most homes were built in blocks) are in greatest need of attention and what health impacts those communities are facing.

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