15 December, 2020
The recently published Social Housing White Paper - The Charter for Social Housing Residents - has put forward new proposals which will allow social housing tenants (or their representatives) of housing associations and other private registered providers to access information relating to the management of social housing held by their landlord.
The proposals would also permit a tenant to access relevant information that may be held by sub-contractors of the housing association. The scheme is set to impose time limits by which landlords will be required to provide the requested information.
It is envisaged that the new access to information scheme will operate in a similar way to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and so landlords may be able to refuse to disclose the requested information using exemptions similar to the FOIA.
Under the proposals, where a tenant feels that their landlord has unreasonably withheld information, they will be able to challenge the landlord's decision to refuse to disclose information. In such circumstances, the landlord will have to conduct an internal review and if the matter remains unresolved, the Housing Ombudsman will decide on the matter. The Housing Ombudsman will also have the power to refer systemic breaches of the scheme to the regulator.
The scheme will ensure that tenants can access key information in a timely manner on issues that matter to them unless there is a good reason for that information to be withheld. Landlords acknowledge the need for organisations to be transparent with their customers but are sceptical that the FOI style scheme may become a bureaucratic exercise where people are fishing for information. There are concerns that such an exercise could cost housing associations time and money and may result in them moving resources away from dealing with the issues at hand.
For more information contact Bethany Paliga in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 01254 222347. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.