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Social Housing Speed Read: The Revised Consumer Standards

Section 193 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (the HRA), as amended by the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023, affords the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) the power to set consumer standards that registered providers are required to meet.

The current consumer standards are published on the RSH website and are as follows:

  • Home Standard
  • Tenancy Standard
  • Neighbourhood and Community Standard
  • Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard
  • Tenant Satisfaction Measures Standard

Following a 3 month consultation concluding in October last year, the RSH has published its revised consumer standards (found here). Whilst changing the way that registered providers work, the revised consumer standards will continue to promote a “viable, efficient and well-governed social housing sector able to deliver and maintain homes of appropriate quality that meet a range of needs”, and set the outcomes (required outcomes and specific expectations) that landlords must deliver.

When did the revised consumer standards come into force?

The revised consumer standards took effect from 1 April this year. A new consumer standard Code of Practice will also be introduced to aid tenants’ and landlords’ understanding of what is expected under the revised standards.

The revised standards

  1. Safety and Quality Standard.

The Safety and Quality Standard will replace the existing ‘Home Standard’. It seeks to ensure that landlords provide safe and good quality homes by undertaking physical assessments and keep accurate records to better understand the condition of all their homes. This standard also covers the quality of landlords’ services, including repairs, maintenance and planned improvements, as well as communicating clearly with tenants if/when they seek housing adaptations.

  1. Transparency, Influence and Accountability Standard.

Tenants and prospective tenants must be treated fairly and respectfully, taking account of tenants’ diverse needs. This new standard encourages landlords to engage with tenants and be transparent so that they better understand what to expect from their landlord. The outcomes of this standard oblige registered providers to collect and provide information that will allow tenants to scrutinise their landlord’s services and to address complaints fairly, effectively, and promptly.

  1. Neighbourhood and Community Standard.

Registered providers are required to engage with relevant organisations in the local area to ensure that tenants live in secure and well-maintained neighbourhoods. This will include the implementation of policies dealing with antisocial behaviour and cases of domestic abuse.

  1. Tenancy Standard

The Tenancy Standard encompasses fair allocation and letting of homes. Registered providers will need to publish clear and accessible policies outlining their approach to tenancy management, including prevention of unnecessary evictions and tackling tenancy fraud. The tenure requirements within the current tenancy standards will remain, and registered providers must continue to offer a mutual exchange service to relevant tenants, as well as information about the implications of mutual exchange.

The Code of Practice:

The consumer standards Code of Practice aims to assist landlords in delivering the standard’s outcomes by providing examples where the RSH felt that clarification would be most useful. The Code is not intended to be enforceable, however the RSH may refer to it in cases where the standards have not been met and when deciding on the appropriate course of action.

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There will be little change with regards to how the revised consumer standards apply. Registered providers must deliver the required outcomes and specific expectations in the consumer standards.

They apply to all social housing in accordance with section 68 of the HRA. Usually these are homes that:

  • are low cost rental accommodations; or
  • are low cost home ownership accommodations, or both.

However, you should note that the Tenancy Standard will not apply to social housing where:

  • the home in question is let on intermediate rent terms; or
  • it is a case of low-cost home ownership and has not yet been stair-cased to 100% ownership.

Please get in touch if you are unsure whether the consumer standard will apply to you and we shall be happy to advise you.

Landlord compliance

The RSH have a range of legal powers available to it to ensure compliance and in case of a breach of the standards. However, it has said that it will exercise such powers in a way that minimises interference in how landlords, accountable to their Boards and Councillors, choose to deliver their services.

The RSH takes a co-regulatory approach alongside the Boards and Councillors of registered providers. At a co-regulatory level, registered providers should be ensuring that they are meeting the outcomes of the consumer standards and demonstrating this to tenants and the regulator.

From 1 April 2024, the RSH will be taking a new approach to consumer regulation by carrying out inspections of large landlords (those with over 1,000 social homes) at least once every four years. This includes both private registered providers and local authority registered providers. The RSH will also be scrutinising data about tenant satisfaction, repairs, and other relevant issues, taking a risk-based approach. This means that it will look at the particular case in question and assess the level of risk; the higher the level of risk, the greater its level of scrutiny and stronger its actions will likely be.

If you have any questions about this update or if you require any advice on any other social housing matter, please get in touch with one of our expert social housing lawyers.

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.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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