Social housing speed read: Social housing standards to be subject to new professional standards and stricter regulation
27th October, 2022
The main purpose of the Social Housing Regulation Bill is to provide better quality housing standards and ensure that tenant complaints are dealt with quickly.
In our speed read dated 25 May 2022 we discussed the proposed introduction of the Social Housing Bill and the key reforms expected in the upcoming 12 months.
The Bill, which is in its final reporting stages, will see increased regulatory inspections and a drive to upskill staff to ensure competency standards are met. The Social Housing Regulation Bill is very focused on the rights of tenants and how they can be empowered to make their voices heard.
Registered providers will be required to carry out training for all staff to ensure that they have the skills, experience and knowledge to deliver a high-quality service. It is hoped that this will see a better quality of services being provided which will result in higher quality and safer homes for tenants.
To those who are not compliant with the new housing quality standards, the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) may issue a regulatory notice.
By way of example, the RSH issued a regulatory notice to the London Borough of Redbridge for breaching the Home Standard by failing to comply with statutory health and safety requirements. Redbridge made a self-referral as it had identified a potential failure to meet statutory requirements in some of its homes and reported that it had not completed electrical safety checks for every property that needed one.
Following its investigation, the RSH found that the London Borough had also failed to comply with statutory requirements regarding fire, asbestos and water safety. The regulator concluded that Redbridge did not have an effective system in place to allow it to meet statutory responsibilities across a range of areas which resulted in the potential for a serious risk to tenants.
As Redbridge has started to implement a programme to rectify these failures and remedy the breach of standard the RSH will not take enforcement action at this time. The regulator will work with Redbridge as it continues to address the issues.
What do Registered Providers need to be aware of?
The regulator sets consumer and economic standards and will intervene where a registered provider fails to meet the standards and the failure has caused, or could have caused, serious harm to tenants.
Consumer standards aim to ensure that social housing is well-managed and of appropriate quality. The regulator also ensures that tenants have appropriate protection and are given the opportunity to be involved in its management and to hold their landlords to account.
Registered providers, except for local authorities, are also subject to economic standards to ensure that they are financially viable and properly managed in order to perform their functions efficiently and economically.
How can Registered Providers achieve these objectives?
The standards include an expectation that providers should communicate with the regulator in an accurate and timely way. RPs are therefore expected to have appropriate control arrangements in place to ensure that the information they supply is accurate.
Providers are also expected to inform the regulator of any material issues that relate to non-compliance or potential non-compliance with the standards. The regulator will then work with the registered provider to ensure that standards are being met.
Registered providers should maintain up to date records alongside a robust business plan with clear risk and control framework. Most importantly, the onus is placed on providers to demonstrate their compliance; hence the importance of communicating with the regulator regularly regarding material issues and risks.
If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact Melanie Dirom, or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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