Yesterday, the Regulator of Social Housing published its Consumer regulation review 2019 to 2020. The last review was published in July 2019 when the world and sector looked very different; however, consumer regulation has remained in the spotlight for the sector. The review covers the four consumer standards, namely:
This review reports 15 cases of breaches of the consumer standards and serious detriment, with seven of these breaches relating to local authorities. The Regulator confirms that this is the highest number of breaches to date and includes the first breach of the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment standard. The review confirms that changes are anticipated in terms of the Regulator’s role and remit in relation to consumer regulation.
The review contains some recurring themes that the sector will be familiar with, including ensuring tenants’ safety in their homes, the importance of effective assurance and the need for transparency in order for co-regulation to work. There is also a specific focus on the relationship with tenants (including shared owners) – the review states that “the quality of a registered provider’s relationship with tenants underpins the trust and confidence that tenants and stakeholders have in the organisation.” There is a focus in the review on treating tenants with fairness and respect, as well as dealing with complaints effectively. Interestingly, the review confirms that under the Home standard, the majority of potential breaches in 2019/20 related to electrical, fire and asbestos safety and not gas, where the sector seems to be making good progress.
Several case studies contained within the review relate to local authorities, highlighting the significant increase in referrals relating to local authority compliance with the consumer standards. Seven local authorities were issued Regulatory Notices in 2019/20.
The review includes a case study detailing the first breach of the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment standard, for which a Regulatory Notice was issued in April 2019. The case study demonstrates the importance of taking the diverse needs of tenants into account, treating all tenants with fairness and respect and demonstrating that the different needs of tenants are understood. The case study concerns Westmoreland Supported Housing, which failed to consult tenants and provide appropriate advice and assistance to vulnerable tenants before or after issuing eviction notices.
In a year where the world as well as the sector has faced unprecedented challenges, the review is a pertinent reminder about the key responsibilities that arise out of consumer regulation and the corresponding standards for registered providers and local authorities. It is also potentially the last report to be issued by the Regulator under its current remit and role in relation to consumer regulation ahead of anticipated changes coming out of the White Paper, which is expected by the end of this calendar year. However, as the review stresses, registered providers should not wait for the publication of the White Paper to address identified weaknesses in their organisation.
We are jointly hosting a webinar alongside Savills on local authorities’ obligations under the Regulatory Standards. If you would like find out more and to sign up, please click here.