Chris Grose examines how tenant satisfaction measures propose to influence neighbourhood management.
The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) launched the proposed tenant satisfaction measures in early December 2021, and with it the all-important timeline of when we can all expect some of these changes to take place. As the consultation contains many documents, we would like to save you time going through them. This article sets out the proposals for neighbourhood management and anti-social behaviour (ASB), an issue affecting many landlords.
Tenants will see how their landlords are performing, paving the way for service improvements
Since the publication of the Social Housing Charter for Tenants back in November 2020, guidance has been sparse, however, this consultation really sheds light on how the regulator intends to capture performance information from landlords.
There are two key objectives for the new proposed tenant satisfaction measures:
- To provide tenants with information about how well their landlord is performing
- To give the RSH an idea of which landlords may need to improve their service
A look at the proposals for managing ASB
Whether satisfaction surveys really give you the right information about how a landlord is performing is often debated, but the consultation documents show that the RSH has grappled with the methodology to get the most reliable data.
For example, there are a number of measures under the responsibility for neighbourhood management which focus on how landlords tackle ASB:
- TP10 – ‘Satisfaction with the landlord’s approach to handling of anti-social behaviour’
- NM01 – ‘Anti-social behaviour cases relative to the size of the landlord’
Allowing all tenants to comment on specific services might become problematic
Let’s look at the measure TP10 – the proposal is that landlords will need to survey ‘all tenants’ for this question. While giving more tenants the opportunity to have their say is the right thing to do in principle, this particular question could generate misleading information, as it includes people who haven’t had experience with this particular issue.
In most instances, it is likely that only a minority of tenants will have experienced ASB (in comparison to the stock size). The feedback from tenants who have not experienced ASB might therefore be influenced by outside factors such as policing, environment or other services that the landlord is providing.
If the question was targeted solely to those tenants with experience of ASB and for whom the landlord had opened an ASB case, this would provide far more accurate information on the services the landlord has provided specifically to tackle this issue. On the other hand, asking tenants about being aware of the landlord’s approaches to ASB would be far more appropriate to a wider audience in relation to how well the landlord communicates its services to tenants who might be suffering from ASB.
The question rightly focusses on the ‘handling’ as opposed to the ‘outcome’. Whilst we all want to see positive outcomes for victims of ASB, sometimes the outcomes can be affected by outside influences such as a lack of evidence, no witnesses or a judicial decision which was unexpected, but it’s the handling of the case that the landlord can control.
Given that the NM01 provides information about ‘how many ASB cases were reported in a year’, it would be relatively straightforward to expand that into the TP10 question. Combining the questions would give us more meaningful information, e.g. whether the quality of service varies if there is a higher caseload.
What about domestic abuse and safeguarding?
It's pleasing to see that domestic abuse and hate incident cases will also be included in the data, but domestic abuse cases will need to be classed as an issue separate from ASB. You should continue to analyse your own data on how many cases of domestic abuse and safeguarding cases are being recorded – make sure that they are not being recorded as ASB, and perhaps overlooked.
There is no mention of safeguarding adults and children in the measures, and perhaps this could be something that the regulator may ask for as part of the breakdown of ASB cases per 1000 properties. Safeguarding is typically a performance measure that gets reported to the board on a quarterly basis, and landlords have legal responsibilities for having policies and procedures in place and to refer to statutory agencies if they have concerns about the welfare of an adult or child. The social housing white paper did make reference to vulnerability and mental health, and how landlords are exposed to many of these issues, so perhaps safeguarding may have a more prominent focus in the new proposed consumer standards.
What will landlords need to do next?
It’s clear that the regulator and its stakeholders have given these measures a lot of thought, and on the whole I think they are asking the right questions in the right way. As long as you are already asking these questions or similar ones, preparing for these new measures will not require a huge amount of work. However, if you are not, then it would be useful to make a start at reviewing what you currently ask tenants about the service that you provide as a landlord, and how these could be adapted going forward. Whilst this consultation will no doubt bring about some tweaks to the current format, I expect few or only small changes, as clearly there has been a lot of thought about what questions to ask, and how to ask them.
If you haven’t already, you might want to participate in the consultation and give your thoughts on the proposed measures. It is open until 3 March 2022.