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The Regulator of Social Housing has published its eighth annual review of social housing consumer regulation, setting out six key lessons that housing providers need to take on board.
The report sets out how RSH responded to consumer regulation referrals during 2019/20, including breaches of consumer standards.
The report says that it has found this year, "the regulator found a breach of the consumer standards and serious detriment in 15 cases, our highest number to date. While we recognise that most registered providers are well-run, and this represents only a small proportion of registered providers, the number of non-compliant providers has increased significantly over the last year."
The six lessons set out from the Regulator are:
- Ensuring tenants are safe in their homes is a fundamental responsibility of any social landlord. In doing so, registered providers and local authorities must meet the full range of statutory health and safety obligations
- Registered providers and local authorities must treat tenants with fairness and respect, and they must demonstrate that they have taken tenants’ diverse needs into account in the course of their business. The quality of a registered provider’s relationship with tenants underpins the trust and confidence that tenants and stakeholders have in the organisation.
- Registered providers and local authorities should respond to complaints promptly and effectively, and in such a way that allows emerging issues to be identified and addressed at an early stage. The importance of providers getting it right when handling complaints applies to complaints from all tenants, including shared owners.
- Being able to maintain and evidence compliance is paramount as all registered providers must comply with the consumer standards and be able to demonstrate their compliance to tenants and stakeholders. Registered providers and local authorities must be clear on the legal and regulatory requirements and their responsibilities as well as having a good understanding of the stock they own. It also requires them to have in place robust reporting and oversight arrangements for their governing bodies.
- Effective assurance relies on good quality data and effective systems.
- Transparency with the regulator as well as with tenants and stakeholders is critical. The principle of co-regulation relies on openness and transparency, and it gives the regulator confidence that registered providers and local authorities are willing and able to resolve issues as they emerge. Our decision on the level of regulatory intervention required will be shaped, in part, by the quality of the engagement we receive from registered providers.
In line with its co-regulatory approach, RSH also highlights the importance of social housing providers being clear on legal and regulatory requirements, having robust governance arrangements, and having good quality data and effective systems.
Where providers are experiencing problems, RSH notes that providers’ transparency and willingness to work with it, affects the level of confidence it can have in their ability to put things right and may shape the level of regulatory intervention required.
Fiona MacGregor, RSH Chief Executive said: "We expect housing associations and local authorities, including Boards and Councillors, to look carefully at this consumer regulation review and learn from the lessons we have identified. Social housing tenants deserve a good service from their landlords and providers should identify and deliver any improvements they need to make.
"Where providers are experiencing issues, including potential breaches of consumer regulation, they should talk to us as soon as possible."
To read the full report, click here.