HQN is delighted to announce our updated social housing regulation toolkit. The toolkit will help you to get ready for the start of what the minister says will be “Ofsted-style” inspections for housing. Every member of HQN wants to deliver good services.  This will help you to prove that you do.

We updated the toolkit for these reasons:

– The Social Housing Regulation Act is now passed,

– The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has overhauled the consumer standards and

– To reflect what we are learning in our own inspection work.

We will continue to update the toolkit as inspection develops. But the three main anchors of the new regime will stay the same.

  1. The whole point of the exercise is to prevent any repeat of the deaths at Grenfell and Rochdale and the many cases of poor treatment we see in the media.
  2. Leaders at housing associations, councils and ALMOs must inspect their own services to test that they are meeting the consumer standards. When they fail to do so they must refer themselves to the RSH.
  3. The consumer standards cover every interaction landlords have with their tenants. So, it is a wide agenda to cover. That is why we make no apologies for the length of our toolkit.

To complete the toolkit properly you will need to engage with staff at all levels as well as tenants and shared owners. That’s the way to get to the facts of the matter. We usually find that front line staff such as call centre workers and maintenance operatives can pinpoint your problem areas very quickly. Nothing is a surprise to them.

The toolkit will help board members and leading councillors answer the sorts of questions inspectors will ask. Here are a few you should be thinking about:

-How do you know that your data is accurate? Have you surveyed all of your homes and communal areas? If not, when will you finish the job? How do you check that the surveys are up to scratch? What do you do with the results of the surveys? How do you prioritise homes and estates for action?

-How do you know if all your homes are safe? What tests have you run? How do you know if these tests are robust? Who did the tests? Did the people hold the right qualifications? Were the sample sizes wide enough? Who is taking on the statutory role as health and safety lead? Are you confident these arrangements will work? Why?

-Are you tailoring services around your residents? (The RSH itself uses the word tailor.) Is the resident voice heard loud and clear? How do you know? Does the way you deliver services take account of diversity and vulnerability? Can you explain why satisfaction varies amongst residents? What are you doing to improve satisfaction rates?

-Are you learning from complaints? What do you do differently based on your own complaints and reports from the Housing Ombudsman? Can you show us hard evidence that complaint handling is getting better?

-Do you have a plausible improvement plan? Is it clear who will do what and by when? Do you have the funding to pay for the improvements you are proposing to make? (So far in our experience we find that most landlords are strong on diagnosing problems but show weaknesses on planning for improvements. Common defects are vague tasks and deadlines alongside unfunded promises. Precision is the key.)

We have tested our toolkit on landlords large and small to make sure it works. But if you have suggestions to improve it, we will be pleased to hear from you.