Welcoming the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023
Let’s not forget why we are here. In the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy in 2017, there has been a seismic shift in the way we think about the safety and quality of residential property. There has been a particular focus on how landlords should engage with their residents and how they promote both transparency and accountability in the way they manage homes and provide services to tenants.
The Social Housing (Regulation) Act sets a range of enhanced powers in law which are delegated to the Regulator of Social Housing. This is alongside a raft of legislation delegating powers to the Building Safety Regulator and strengthening the Housing Ombudsman Service. Together the new measures seek to mitigate against the systemic failures that led to that catastrophic loss of life in North Kensington.
The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) set out their plans for reshaping consumer regulation in January this year and with the Act having just received Royal Assent, proactive consumer regulation will begin in earnest in April 2024. This will include:
- A consumer inspection regime
- The end of the serious detriment test, the test that limited the level of intervention that the RSH had for failings on consumer matters
- Consultation about new consumer standards
We’ve already seen the Tenant Satisfaction Measures launch earlier this year and larger landlords are already collecting satisfaction and management information, to be reported to the RSH in April 2024. Without a doubt, this information will inform the programming of inspections next year.
The consistent message from the RSH to the sector has been to ‘get on with things’ but unquestionably, there will be some in the sector who are pondering where to start. While social housing providers must not lose sight of the fact that the current consumer standards are still in force, we recommend they begin preparations for the new regime by asking themselves some key questions:
- Are we measuring up to the current consumer standards and does feedback from tenants confirm our assessment?
- Is our current engagement framework meaningful and outcome focussed and do our tenants truly have a say about organisational strategy, services, and quality of homes?
- Do we have a culture of listening to the tenant voice?
- Is our leadership and are our teams ready for the new regulatory environment and the expectations of consumer focussed inspections?
- Is our culture one that treats tenants with respect?
Culture is key. Based on the three tests of the regulator, I invite landlords to consider these three questions:
- Are you committed to making a meaningful difference to tenants?
- Can you deliver that meaningful difference?
- What evidence can you gather to show that you’ve made that difference?
This may be a defining moment for the sector. Can it respond in a way that changes the culture enough to make a real difference to tenants’ lives through improved homes, more responsive services and organisations that takes seriously and acts upon what their tenants tell them?
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