In November 2020, the Charter for Social Housing Residents: Social Housing White Paper (“White Paper”) was published. The White Paper sets out a new regulatory system which aims to protect and give a stronger voice to social housing tenants, with a view to ‘provide greater redress, better regulation and improve the quality of social housing’ in England.
Aim of the White Paper
Tenants feeling safe in their own home, having their voice heard and holding their landlords more accountable are just some of the key points addressed by the White Paper. There is also a focus on greater transparency between social landlords and tenants.
Impact on Registered Providers
- Housing associations will need to appoint a ‘responsible person’ whose role will be to ensure compliance with consumer standards set by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH). The serious detriment test has also been replaced with a more proactive regulatory approach whereby routine inspections every 4 years for large landlords will become the norm.
- A revised form of tenant satisfaction questionnaire will need to be issued to tenants to help landlords measure their performance and make them more accountable to tenants.
- Tenants shall have the right to request access to a plethora of additional information regarding their landlord’s organisation including salary details, management costs and housing management information.
- Tenants will be able to raise complaints easier and quicker as tenants can now go directly to the Housing Ombudsman. This White Paper calls for increased advertising of complaints procedures too which, again, is to ensure transparency.
What does this mean?
Inevitably, the burden will fall to the RPs who will face the additional financial burdens and administrative efforts involved in turning the White Paper into reality. Appointing new staff to comply with the “responsible person” obligation; providing additional information to social tenants; regular inspections being carried out every 4 years and updating and circulating the new complaints handling procedure are just some of the financial and resource hoarding tasks which will fall to social landlords.
Not to mention unlimited fines being introduced so that the RSH’s powers fall more in line with other regulatory bodies.
Are RPs really failing their tenants to such an extent to warrant such additional measures?
Pushing a greater administrative and financial burden in the direction of social landlords is going to lead to already limited resources being stretched even further, which may result in the opposite net result for the tenants.
It appears that perhaps the White Paper has been too keen to impose, on paper, what appears to be a transparency-based reshuffle placing the tenant’s best interests at heart. But, in being overzealous with its proposals, has it perhaps gone a bit too far?