Social Housing (Regulation) Act given Royal Assent – what’s next?
11 August 2023
The long-anticipated Social Housing (Regulation) Act has been given Royal Assent, issuing in a new era of law reform for tenants, landlords and the wider social housing sector.
Born out of the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 and the subsequent green and white paper, including the “New Deal for Social Housing”, the Act aims to address key concerns about social housing.
In particular, the measures included in the Act have been designed to “raise standards, increase transparency and accountability, improve the complaints and redress process, and engage and empower residents”.
How will the Act affect the social housing industry?
The recent legislative change will significantly influence the way that the industry operates and is held accountable.
Here’s a closer look at the Act’s essential features.
An improved Social Housing Regulator
The legislation strengthens the Social Housing Regulator’s capabilities, paving the way for proactive consumer regulation. This will ensure that the Regulator has an improved ability to step in and resolve matters where landlords are found lacking in consumer-related areas. The goal is to address issues promptly and ensure tenants’ protection.
Enhanced enforcement powers
Through the Act, the Regulator now boasts enhanced enforcement capabilities. This includes the authority for routine assessments of social housing premises, ensuring landlords uphold service and accommodation quality and the ability to issue more substantial fines for breaches. The objective of these new powers is to elevate housing standards nationwide for tenants.
The Act introduces strict deadlines for social landlords to rectify hazards and grants social housing tenants the right to solicit information from their landlords. This move is aimed at fostering transparency and accountability within the industry. It is intended that tenants can quickly address issues and have access to vital information concerning their residences with fewer obstructions.
Benchmarks for registered housing providers
This legislation delineates certain standards for registered housing entities. It mandates that social housing administrators either have specific credentials or are in the process of acquiring them to ensure professionalism within the industry. This measure ensures that tenants receive the highest possible service from their housing organisations.
Now that the Act has received Royal Assent, the Regulator will revisit and review existing consumer standards. It has already published a consultation on new consumer standards to help protect tenants, with the final regime expected to go live in April next year.
This consultation covers:
- The Safety and Quality Standard
- The Transparency, Influence and Accountability Standard
- The Neighbourhood and Community Standard
- The Tenancy Standard
Alongside this, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities (DLUHC) will continue to explore strategies to introduce other elements of its original white paper that seek to advance the Government’s vision for social housing reform.
This will include updates to the existing Decent Homes Standards, the introduction of Awaab’s Law – which enshrines social landlords’ obligations to investigate and fix reported hazards or rehouse tenants where a home cannot be made safe – and additionally look to introduce an ever-greater sense of professionalism to the sector.
Consultations on these measures will be essential to achieving a complete roll-out of the Act, which is why bodies such as the National Housing Federation are calling on its members to interact with the Government on these changes.
Speaking following the Act’s ascension, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP said: “The Social Housing Act will help to ensure that tenants get the safe, warm and decent homes they deserve – and those who have seriously neglected their responsibilities for far too long will face the consequences.”
If you would like further information on how the Act will impact you and your operations, please get in touch with the Social Housing Team.
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 August 2023.