No-one should be acting the April Fool on regulation. Social landlords have been told to prepare for the changes by the Regulator of Social Housing for at least two years, with the new framework in the making since the Social Housing Green Paper in 2018.

As the new era of consumer regulation comes into force, Kate Dodsworth, Chief of Regulatory Engagement at the RSH, is clear that her organisation, for one, is ready for the challenge.

In an interview for Housing Quality Magazine to be published in full later this month, Kate outlines how the RSH has been preparing and what specifically it’ll be doing from the 1 April.

The key change is that the inspections themselves will start. The landlords who’ll be the first to be inspected for real have already had their notices and will be preparing busily over the Easter period, getting all their documentation ready to send to the RSH for the first phase of the process.

And then, as Kate said, “the field work will start. Typically, our teams will go in, ask further questions, talk to the board, or to lead members on the local authority side, the executive team, and observe a tenant scrutiny committee.”

At the end of it all they will form a judgement and give the landlord a C1-C4 grading, as Kate explains that “our judgements will talk about overall delivery against the standards”. This is what we’ll all be looking out for later in the summer to ascertain what those judgements look and feel like across the sector, and how they might start to change things for tenants for the better.

What she was very clear on, though, was that “where there are problems, we will be working intensely with those landlords on an improvement programme”.

So, the improvements for tenants (which is, after all, the point of the regulation) should start to be felt soon, if not already, as landlords focus on the consumer standards and try to ensure good outcomes for tenants – and if not then, after an inspection when the regulator makes them improve.

As the new era commences, Kate’s final message to landlords on consumer regulation was: “Often it comes back to culture: can a landlord easily spot issues and put them right? What’s the golden thread running through the organisation to understand quickly the themes of complaints? How able are they to spot problems with the quality of tenants’ homes? And how robust and effective is their data? I would call on boards and lead members to continue asking these questions.”

To read the full version of this interview, look out for the next edition of HQM due out at the end of April.