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The Social Housing White Paper and draft legislation

Ministers have released draft legislation aimed at delivering reforms promised in the Social Housing White Paper. John Murray sets out the key measures.

The Government’s reforms aim to create, ‘A new regime for regulating social housing’ following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Key changes include:

  • Expanding the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) role to deal with the regulation of consumer matters. This will include powers to inspect and demand improvements on properties.
  • Imposing a new objective on the RSH to require registered social housing providers to be transparent with their tenants by setting up an ‘Access to Information Scheme’ This will provide tenants with a set of financial metrics on management costs and a breakdown of how income is spent.
  • Introducing new tenant satisfaction measures and forcing landlords to prepare performance improvement plans.
  • Ensuring landlords appoint a designated health and safety lead.
  • Requiring the RSH to set up an Advisory Panel comprised of people from across the sector, including tenants and landlords who will provide advice and be consulted on policy changes.
  • Enabling the RSH and the Social Housing Ombudsman to work together more effectively to protect tenants.
  • Making the criteria to register as a social housing provider more stringent by making registration conditional upon the applicant’s ability to meet regulatory standards.

Consequences for failure to comply

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Under these reforms there will be greater consequences for housing providers who fail to comply. Names of providers can be publicised where the Ombudsman finds severe maladministration or when consumer standards have been breached. The draft clauses also lift the cap on the level of penalty the RSH can impose.

What can you do to prepare?

  • Inform and prepare your staff for the changes.
  • Take time to review your systems for managing data, recording issues and dealing with complaints.
  • Think carefully about the financial contribution that may be needed to comply with these changes.
  • Talk to your tenants, listen to their concerns and make records of how you respond.
  • Appoint a health and safety lead ahead of time. Make sure that they are adequately trained and equipped.

There is currently no set timeframe for the reforms. However, registered housing providers would be well advised to start preparing now. The full draft clauses can be viewed here.

John Murray is a partner at Ward Hadaway.

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