Under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), a range of measures are available to a local authority. One of those measures is that they may serve an improvement notice seeking specified works to be carried out by the recipient of the notice.

A person who receives an improvement notice may appeal it.

In Wood v Kingston Upon Hull City Council [2017] EWCA Civ 364 There were two flats in a building. The first floor flat was owned by Mr Wood and the ground floor flat was owned by Ms Peacock.

The local authority decided that the fire resistance between the two flats was inadequate. They determined this was a category 2 hazard and served an improvement notice on both Mr Wood and Ms Peacock. Both notices offered two alternative schemes of work:

  • a new fire resistant ceiling in the ground floor flat or,
  • a fire resistant layer between the joists of the two flats.

At a first appeal to the First-tier Tribunal, Mr Wood was unsuccessful. But, was successful at a further appeal to the Upper Tribunal.

The Upper Tribunal (UT) decided that the first scheme of works (new fire resistant ceiling in ground floor flat) should not have been served on Mr Wood as the works would have been entirely in the ground floor flat. The UT held that the second proposal (fire resistant layer) was considerably more expensive and it was irrational for the local authority to propose it.

As a result, the UT quashed the notice served on Mr Wood and amended the notice served on Ms Peacock of the ground floor flat to only include the first proposal of works (new ceiling).

The local authority appealed to the Court of Appeal, saying that they had been correct to serve both notices with the alternative proposals. Mr Wood further sought in addition to the earlier appeal, that an improvement notice could not contain alternative proposals of works.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the local authority’s appeal but Mr Wood’s argument that alternative proposals could not be included in an improvement notice was rejected.

On the basis of the evidence provided (which appeared to be limited), the Court of Appeal decided that the the deficiency which required remedy (fire separation between the flats) was in the ground floor flat and as such, the improvement notice should have been served on Ms Peacock alone.

In respect of alternative proposals for work, the Court of Appeal held that there was nothing objectionable in principle in a notice specifying alternative schemes of work. In such a case, the recipient of the notice is free to choose which scheme of works to choose.