The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023: An update
4th January, 2024
After introduction of the Bill into the House of Lords on 8th June 2022, the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 received Royal Assent on 20th July 2023 bringing with it significant changes to the Social Housing sector.
The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 was introduced in order to improve the quality of social housing for tenants by tightening the regulations imposed on the social housing sector. It is likely that these changes have come about following the tragic death of Awaab Ishak, Read more about the case and the resulting legislative changes, and also following the Grenfell Towers Tragedy.
The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 amends the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 in order to grant the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) increased powers and impose tighter regulations on social housing providers. Many changes have been introduced, but the main ones affecting Registered Providers are listed below.
Overview of Key Changes
- Power granted to RSH to impose unlimited fines for non-compliance, including for Local Authorities.
- Power granted to RSH to undertake surveys.
- Power granted to RSH to authorise emergency remedial action at Registered Provider’s expense.
- Power granted to RSH to perform inspections, including on Local Authorities.
- Removal of the “serious detriment test” enabling the Regulator of Social Housing to use its powers without the need for it to be satisfied that there is risk of serious detriment to residents.
- Power granted to RSH to require a Registered Provider to implement a Performance Improvement Plan.
- Imposition of new qualification requirements for Social Housing managers.
- Powers granted to RSH to remove officers of Registered Providers.
- Requirement of social housing landlords to employ a Health and Safety lead.
- Requirement of social housing landlords to inform tenants of how to make a complaint
Changes currently in force
Many of the changes brought by the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 were introduced on 20 September 2023.
The requirement to set standards relating to competence and conduct of senior housing managers and executives is currently in force under section 36 of the Act. This requires RPs to ensure that their senior management have, or are working toward, the necessary qualification in housing management to be able to perform the job effectively. The relevant necessary qualification may include a foundation degree or a qualification regulated by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation which is of a level not exceeding level 5.
The legislative requirement of social housing landlords to inform tenants of how to make a complaint to their landlord is already in force, aided by the “Make Things Right Campaign”. The campaign aims to inform tenants of how and when tenants can make complaints, including escalation to the Ombudsman. For more information on this, please see our article on the “Make Things Right Campaign. The RSH now also has the power to ask RPs to provide information to the RSH and for such information to be published. Information such as the landlord’s with the highest amount of complaints can now, and is now, being published.
Changes yet to be introduced
One of the changes that will come into force is the requirement for RPs to appoint a health and safety lead. This will likely come into force in April 2024 following the introduction of the consumer standards and inspection regime.
Another major change is the Act will remove the “serious detriment test” enabling the Regulator of Social Housing to use its powers without the need for it to be satisfied that there is risk of serious harm to residents. As above, this is likely to come into force in April 2024 following the inspection regime and will mean that the RSH will be able to enter properties much more easily and without providing as much rationale for the inspection.
Of all the changes yet to be introduced, the inspection and penalty legislations are the ones that most RPs are concerned with. Alongside the removal of the “serious detriment test” the Act will grant the RSH with powers to inspect properties, including properties owned by the Local Authority. The RSH will also be able to perform emergency remedial action at the RPs expense if they feel it is necessary, and they will be able to undertake surveys and remove senior officers. The RSH will also be able to require a RP to implement a Performance Improvement Plan where they feel it is required and will be able to monitor such a plan closely. These changes are all likely to follow the inspection regime and come into force in April 2024.
From April 2024, the RSH will also be able to grant unlimited fines for non-compliance of any regulations or legislation. This is significant because prior to this (and currently) there is a cap of £5,000 for non-compliance.
The Act also brings about changes regarding a moratorium on the disposal of land by private RPs where certain events occur. This legislation is not yet specified or in force, but RPs should be wary of the change.
Amendments to the provisions of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 regarding procedures to be followed upon the insolvency of an RP are also not yet in force.
Other standards affecting RPs are also likely to come into force in April 2024 including The Safety and Quality Standard, The Transparency, Influence and Accountability, The Neighbourhood and Community Standard and The Tenancy Standard.
Impact on the Social Housing Sector
The new powers and requirements expose RPs to new pressures which are intended to ensure that the reformed standards of social housing are met. This means that RPs need to ensure that they are meeting these standards in order to avoid visits from the RSH and/or avoid stringent penalties, such as unlimited fines. RPs can do so by ensuring that their buildings remain defect and damage free, by employing a Health and safety lead, by providing training to their officers, by being transparent with their tenants and by dealing with any issues quickly and effectively. The more proactive, the better.
What happens next?
The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 brings numerous changes to the social housing sector, and RPs should try to get ahead of these changes in order to avoid severe penalties. Most of the new legislative rules regarding transparency of RPs towards their tenants and to the RSH have been introduced, however the rules on inspection and enforcement will follow behind in early 2024. This maybe to provide almost a transition period for RPs to be able to make the relevant changes prior to the more stringent inspection regulations that will be heading their way. For the changes that are not yet in force and reliant on new standards and legislation being introduced, it will simply be a waiting game to see whether they are given assent in April 2024, but it is definitely a date for the diaries.
If you believe you are impacted by anything mentioned in the article above, or you have any concerns about a separate Social Housing matter, get in touch with 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.
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