Reshaping consumer regulation


19 November 2021

The recent paper produced by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has provided some detail on how the RSH will attempt to deliver on new consumer standards regulation that were introduced in The Charter for Social Housing Residents.

The document identified six themes that the new standards will cover in order to provide more accountability of landlords to provide safe homes, quality services and treat residents with more respect:

  1. Safety. Landlords' safety responsibilities, including safety within the home and communal areas.
  2. Quality. Quality of the home, communal spaces and services to tenants.
  3. Neighbourhood. Landlords' role, working with other agencies, to contribute to the wellbeing of neighbourhoods in which tenants live.
  4. Transparency. Landlords' role in making information accessible to tenants including roles and responsibilities within landlords, so tenants know who is responsible for matters relating to consumer standards.
  5. Engagement and accountability. Engagement between landlords and tenants, including how complaints are handled. Landlords' accountability to tenants and treating tenants with fairness and respect.
  6. Tenancy. Requirements on landlords in respect to tenancies, including allocations policies and opportunities for tenants to move.

The document also stated that the RSH should continue to regulate using principles already applied in economic regulation and that the Housing Ombudsman should resolve that individual complaints as far as practicable. The document also stated that overly prescriptive duties should be avoided and that an outcome-based approach to the new consumer standards should be adopted. The RSH also confirmed that it would continue to focus on broad issues rather than individual disputes.

The document is hopeful that through further regulation its fundamental outcomes can be realised. There are 10 outcomes that the document is hoping to achieve; these include social housing being well managed, tenants’ complaints being dealt with efficiently and effectively, tenants having access to information to hold their landlord to account.

That is a flavour of what is included, but there seems to be a real thrust at accountability and effective dispute resolution. This theme ties in with the recent Housing Ombudsman’s report, which while specifically about damp and mould, did suggest that tenants should be made more aware of the internal complaints procedures landlords have and the role of the Ombudsman in dispute resolution.

Comment

The standards are likely to change and develop as more direction is given by the Government and more input is received from various stakeholders and the RSH has promised consultation after the Government has legislated in this area. However, it seems unlikely that there will be any dramatic shift in the standards as described in the document.

There is likely to be additional change on the horizon with the document setting out how consultation for the tenant satisfaction measures will be launched in the early part of December 2021 and landlord comments will be welcomed.

Finally, there is still no clear timeline for when these standards will be introduced formally, however, it is sensible to assume they are coming quickly as the Government has suggested the appropriate legislation will be implemented as soon as practicable. Early introduction of new systems that follow the standards seems sensible so that difficulties can be ironed out early, easing the transition for landlord and tenant alike.

How can Birketts help?

Birketts has a specialist Housing Management Team to to ensure that our clients stay ahead. Our expert lawyers can advise on all aspects of housing and asset management from complex ASB claims, Equality Act defences, building safety issues, defending disrepair claims and EPA prosecutions, subletting and housing fraud cases, service charge disputes, s20 consultation issues, applications to vary defective leases, to name but a few of the issues we can assist with. Our experts have decades of experience acting for Registered Providers and local authorities and offer a truly ‘one-stop shop’ for the issues facing the sector.

If you have any queries regarding the content of this article or wish to discuss any issue regarding the management of your tenants or stock, please contact Clive Adams, Jonathan Hulley or any member of the Social Housing Team, to see how Birketts can help you.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at November 2021.

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