The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has revealed more details about how it will attempt to deliver on the consumer standards regulation as part of the Social Housing White Paper.

It has identified six themes the standards will cover: safety, quality, neighbourhood, transparency, engagement and accountability, and tenancies.

While still subject to consultation, those standards in more detail are:

  • Safety — Landlords’ safety responsibilities, including safety within the home and communal areas
  • Quality — Quality of the home, communal spaces and services to tenants
  • Neighbourhood — Landlords’ role, working with other agencies, to contribute to the wellbeing of neighbourhoods in which tenants live
  • Transparency — Landlords’ role in making information accessible to tenants including roles and responsibilities within landlords, so tenants know who is responsible for matters relating to consumer standards
  • Engagement and accountability — Engagement between landlords and tenants, including how complaints are handled. Landlords’ accountability to tenants and treating tenants with fairness and respect
  • Tenancy — Requirements on landlords in respect to tenancies, including allocations policies and opportunities for tenants to move.

RSH says it “will regulate proactive consumer regulation using the same underlying principles it applies for economic regulation.” These being co-regulatory, proportionate, and risk- and assurance-based in approach as well as “focusing on outcomes rather than being prescriptive.”

The RSH says it will consult on the standards “once the Government has legislated and issued a direction to us.”

The new consumer regulation role will focus on four key areas:

  • Principles and outcomes
  • Standards
  • Our consumer regulation approach
  • Tenant satisfaction measures

And on those areas, they are defined by ten key outcomes:

  1. Social housing is well managed
  2. Tenants’ complaints are dealt with efficiently and effectively.
  3. Tenants are treated with fairness and respect and their diverse needs are taken into account.
  4. Social housing stock meets the decent homes standard.
  5. Landlords ensure social housing meets health and safety requirements and consider safety in the management of housing.
  6. Landlords comply with tenancy law and regulations and avoid unnecessary evictions.
  7. Tenants have access to information to hold their landlords to account.
  8. Tenants have opportunities to influence the decisions and priorities of their landlords with respect to their housing.
  9. Landlords take account of the views of tenants in the management of their homes.
  10. Landlords work with other agencies to contribute to the safety and well-being of the areas in which the homes they are responsible for are situated.

RSH confirms that, in line with the white paper, its remit will continue to focus on organisational, rather than individual issues.

To support the new standards, RSH is looking at using the following tools:

  • Consumer inspections – either as part of a planned programme of gathering assurance, or where we are responding to information that standards are not being met
  • Reactive engagement – responsive follow up on information that indicates a potential breach of the standards (similar to how we currently operate consumer regulation)
  • Desk-top reviews – reviewing information about landlords’ performance from the tenant satisfaction measures and a range of other sources
  • Data returns – we already collect a wide range of information from landlords as part of our economic regulation, and we are considering the data that we might need for our consumer regulation in future to focus our engagement

The document also describes progress on the tenant satisfaction measures, with a detailed consultation to follow in early December 2021.

Also in the document, the Regulator says of the new measures: “However, most of these changes can only be made when Parliament has passed legislation to change our objectives and legal powers. The Government has said that it will introduce the legislation needed to implement the white paper as soon as practicable.

“While this means new consumer standards cannot be implemented yet, boards and councillors responsible for social housing should not wait for new consumer regulation to look at how they can improve their services and engagement with tenants.

“The response to the expectations set by the white paper for service improvements will need to be taken forward alongside the focus on stock investment to deliver building safety and energy efficiency improvements, as well as continuing to deliver new affordable homes to meet housing needs.”

Fiona MacGregor, Chief Executive of RSH said: “We are pleased to share an overview of our early thinking about how we will reshape consumer regulation and implement the changes set out in the social housing white paper. We look forward to working with social housing tenants, landlords, and other stakeholders as we develop our thinking further.

“However, delivering all this will take time. Boards and councillors responsible for social housing should not wait for new consumer regulation to look at how they can improve their landlord services and their engagement with tenants.”

You can see the full document here.