23 July, 2019
Every year, the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) publishes their annual consumer regulation review, which sets out how the RSH has applied consumer regulation legislation as well as gives examples of this in action.
The RSH, as a regulator, publishes these reports to ensure transparency in their work as well as to cross-pollinate good practice and lessons that have been learned from challenging situations.
The key points brought out from the last reporting year, which saw the RSH publish six regulatory notices where registered providers (RPs) had failed to meet a consumer standard which then risked or caused serious detriment to their tenants, emphasised transparency, compliance and robust oversight.
The RSH emphasises that RPs are obliged to act to ensure the homes they provide are safe, whilst meeting the full spectrum of statutory health and safety responsibilities. To ensure this, the RSH highlights the need for RPs to ensure that they have vigorous reporting and assurance procedures in place which allow their relevant boards and councillors to have appropriate and effective oversight.
RSH have emphasised in this report that in order to be able to deliver satisfactory compliance, RPs are required to have good governance as a foundation, a suitable organisational culture that promotes compliance as well as good quality data to feed into the system. This is all underpinned by having a first-class relationship with their tenants, all of which together allows RPs to deliver on their objectives.
The report has over a dozen case studies of various issues that have arisen over the previous 12 months, the most pertinent of which we shall cover briefly here.
Knowsley Housing Trust (KHT) had a number of high risk fire safety actions outstanding, as well as several fire enforcement notices from the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, as well as an internal audit which concluded that the board did not have assurance of compliance with statutory health and safety regulations.
The RSH concluded that KHT did not have an effective system in place for delivering statutory compliance, placing their tenants at risk. In conjunction with this, the RSH found that there were significant weaknesses in board oversight, scrutiny and reporting which meant that it was unable to demonstrate effective management of key risks. All the above led to KHT being downgrade to G3 in August 2018.
This example demonstrates the correlation between regulation and governance, where failing to meet a consumer standard was derivative of organisational governance issues. RPs must understand the importance of having a full understanding of the root causes of health and safety failures when they occur so that this can be tackled and prevent any reoccurrence. The RSH are clear that it is regularly the case where a breach of the consumer standards then the RSH often conclude that this is due to a breakdown in an RP's governance.
As well as fire safety, electrical safety also featured in the report, specifically the reported case from Lincolnshire Housing Partnership (LHP). Concerns were raised by the partnership, and self-referred to the RSH, regarding missing, error strewn or out of date (over ten years old) electrical certificates for its properties.
Despite the self-referral, the seriousness of the situation saw the RSH find that LHP was in breach of the Home Standard, however there was no downgrade and their G2 grade was deemed to still be appropriate. Key to this was LHP immediately tackling the issue once identified, putting a plan in place and commissioning a review to understand what went wrong. This highlights the key points the RSH emphasised throughout the report, as alluded to earlier (transparency and understanding).
RPs can be in no doubt that such issues can arise across the spectrum of property compliance including in cases of legionella, gas, asbestos and lifts, should board not have sufficient assurance and oversight. Good governance is essential across the full spectrum.
The other cases studies provide valuable insight into what can go wrong, how others have reacted and the lessons which have been learned (and indeed the lessons which the RSH would have other RPs act on). The cases cover examples of breaches to the Tenancy Standard, the Neighbourhood and Community Standard, the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard as well as generally how to respond when things go wrong.
Whilst the report does not, and can never, cover all eventualities which an RP may face it remains nonetheless essential reading for any RP.
For more information contact Jane Cox in our Governance, Procurement & Information department via email or phone on 07976 276666. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.