The Social Housing White Paper - A Brief Overview

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24 November, 2020

On the 17th of November 2020 the government released its long-awaited Social Housing White Paper - The Charter for Social Housing Residents - that looks to reset the relationship between Registered Providers, residents and the Regulator for Social Housing (RSH).

The paper focuses on health & safety and tenant empowerment. The government will be working with the RSH to create a consumer regulatory regime which bolsters the formal standards against which Registered Providers are regulated. In case you have not has time to review the full paper, this article is intended as an overview of its key points.

Health & Safety

Following the Grenfell tragedy and the Bolton student flats which lit ablaze in November 2019, it is no wonder health & safety is at the core of the white paper. The paper introduces the following measures:

  • The RSH to update their objectives to explicitly refer to safety and transparency.
  • Each Registered Provider to train and nominate a person responsible for safety and develop a program of consulting residents on health & safety.

Tenant Empowerment

This can be split into two parts - accountability of Registered Providers and the treatment of tenants.

Accountability - Part of tenant empowerment is the ability for tenants to hold their landlords to account. Following our review of the paper we expect:

  • The RSH to introduce ways to measure tenant satisfaction in areas such as repairs, building safety, community management, ASB measures and tenant satisfaction.
  • Registered Providers to be obliged to provide tenants with annual reports on key information including tenant satisfaction and management costs. The information to provided will be relative to the size of the Registered Provider.
  • Each Registered Provider to nominate a senior person to be responsible for ensuring compliance with the updated consumer standards and driving any change required.

Treatment of Tenants - The white paper seeks to move away for the alleged paternalistic approach to residents and towards more meaningful engagement. The paper seeks to do this by:

  • Strengthening the Ombudsman e.g. by placing its new complaint handling code on statutory footing.
  • Speeding up tenant's access to the Ombudsman e.g. by permitting earlier referrals.
  • Requiring Registered Providers to improve tenant engagement as part of their consumer standards.

We recommend all Registered Providers review the Ombudsman compliant code and ensure their internally processes are updated accordingly.

Bolstered Standards

Alongside the topics of health & safety and tenant empowerment, the paper updates us on the necessary regulation to ensure Registered Providers adapt accordingly. Proposals include:

  • The RSH continuing to monitor and encourage compliance with the enhanced consumer standard. The RSH will be given further enforcement powers to ensure compliance including a new code of practice on consumer standard and routine inspections.
  • Removal of the "serious detriment" test for consumer standard. Instead Registered Providers will be required to self-report breaches to the RSH.
  • The creation of an advisory committee to provide an independent and an impartial overview of regulation of the consumer standards.

We recommend Registered Providers review their policies and systems for ensuring compliance with the customer standard and ensure that these are monitored.

Although the paper introduces a significant change to social housing, many Registered Providers are already compliance with changes. Also, many of the proposals rely upon further legislation and consultation, so implementation will not be immediate. Open engagement between Registered Providers, tenants and the RSH will be vital in creating a sustainable system which is fit for purpose and in which all stakeholders have faith.

For more information contact Aisha Bhailok in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 0333 207 1130. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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