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Regulator warns housing stock-owning local authorities of application of consumer standards

The Regulator of Social Housing has written to the chief executives of all housing stock-owning local authorities to remind them that the watchdog’s consumer standards – in particular in relation to the health and safety of occupants – apply to them.

The move follows a letter sent by the Regulator after the Grenfell Tower fire to all registered providers of social housing to remind them of their obligations for their tenants’safety under the Regulator of Social Housing’s Consumer standards.

Since that first letter, the watchdog has issued regulatory notices to two local authorities in respect of compliance with the Home Standard (which is one of the consumer standards), and specifically a range of health and safety requirements.

In this latest letter the Regulator’s chief executive, Fiona MacGregor, said while its Governance and Financial Viability and Value for Money standards do not apply to local authorities, the consumer standards do apply.

In particular, she drew their attention to part 1.2 (b) of the Home Standard, which requires that registered providers shall:

meet all applicable statutory requirements that provide for the health and safety of occupants in their homes.

MacGregor noted that that obligation remained with the local authority where it is the stock-owning body, even if the management has been contracted to another body such as an ALMO.

She then cited an extract from the original letter saying, amongst other things, that meeting health and safety obligations was a primary responsibility for registered providers, and that boards and councillors must ensure that they have proper oversight of all health and safety issues.

The first letter stressed that contracting out delivery of services did not contract out responsibility to meet the requirements of legislation or standards, so providers needed systems to give boards assurance of compliance.

It also said that should any provider find that they have systemic failings in relation to internal control of health and safety, which indicate that they were not in compliance with the Standard, based on the co-regulatory approach, the Regulator expected them to notify it as Regulator and resolve the issues immediately.

Ms MacGregor said her latest letter was “a reminder to local authorities that the consumer standards apply to them and that while we currently only consider information that is referred to us, this does not diminish the obligation on local authorities to comply with the standards.

“Currently, legislation only permits us to take enforcement action where there has been a breach of a consumer standard, and that breach has, or could, cause serious detriment to current or future tenants. As can be seen from our various Consumer Regulation Review publications, we most commonly find breach and serious detriment in relation to the Home Standard.”

She added: “You may wish to seek your own assurance that your authority is complying with the consumer standards.”

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