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The Regulator of Social Housing has found that Wandle Housing Association has breached the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016.
In particular the Regulator says this was "because Wandle did not fully implement the 1% rent reductions as required by that legislation in the years 2016 to 2020."
The judgement adds: "From our review of data submitted by Wandle in its 2018/19 Statistical Data Return, we identified an increase in the average rent being charged for General Needs properties at a time when providers were required to reduce rents by 1% annually.
"In response to our enquiries, Wandle has undertaken a series of investigations to assess the scale and nature of the errors. These investigations have concluded that between 2016 and 2020, approximately £320k was overcharged as a result of incorrect rent-setting."
Wandle concluded that the majority of incorrect rents are due to either:
- Misclassification of properties – units were mistakenly classified as secure tenancies and subject to the Rent Act 1977 exemption; or
- Failure to implement the 1% reduction in the first 12 months on some new tenancies.
Wandle has considered its approach to rent setting and annual rent changes and has developed an action plan. The key actions in the plan include:
- Reimbursing overcharged tenants;
- Specific actions to meet regulatory requirements for different types of rents;
- The correction of data errors stemming from tenancy classifications impacting on annual rent setting;
- A policy and procedure review to clarify lines of accountability, strengthen knowledge and skills and improve assurance on rent setting;
- Improving audit and validation of rent setting and annual rent changes.