The LUHC Select Committee has today (20 July) published its first report on its current inquiry into the regulation of social housing. The inquiry commenced in November 2021, and has received both written and oral submissions from TAROE Trust.
The report is warmly welcomed by TAROE Trust, which contains a number of findings and recommendation, including the following:
Housing Standards and disrepair
- The condition of some homes within the sector has fallen into disrepair, and in some cases have deteriorated so badly to be unfit for human habitation. The report recognises the significant negative impact this has on the physical and mental health of residents living in these homes.
- There is a call to prioritise the quality of housing provided to existing tenants.
- The Committee recommends that the Government introduces funding for regeneration which are currently excluded from existing funding regimes that do not result in a net addition of new homes, and for the supply of homes let at social rent levels to be increased.
- Reservations have been expressed about recent proposals to extend the Right to Buy to tenants of private housing providers and the need to prevent the further erosion of existing stock levels.
- Poor housing management practices have contributed to housing disrepair. This includes the need to adopt more proactive stock condition survey approaches; less reliance on the need for tenants to report problems with their housing; investing in proper remediation work over “quick fixes”; investigating structural causes of disrepair; and responding more quickly to tenants’ repair requests.
- A strengthening of regulatory standards that require housing providers to regularly survey the condition of their housing stock.
TAROE Trust has long campaigned on several issues that re-address the power imbalance that exists between landlords and tenants. The report has highlighted the following:
- Explicit recognition of the ‘power imbalance’ between providers and tenants leading to poor treatment of tenants and compromised service quality.
- A lack of respect for tenants arising from the stigma attached to being a ‘social housing tenant’.
- The increased distance of some providers from their tenants as a result of the commercialisation of the sector and drift from their original social mission.
To address such matters, the Committee highlight the need for:
- Boards and senior management teams need to better reflect the diversity of the communities they serve (and to incorporate this requirement into revised consumer standards enforced by the Regulator)
- The Regulator to ‘require’ providers to support the establishment of tenants and residents associations that are led by tenants and residents and not subject to undue influence by by providers.
- The establishment of a permanent national tenant voice body to signal the intention that it intends to involve tenants in the national conversation about how to drive up standards in the sector.
- Strengthening of the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard to require providers to deliver ‘local and tenant centred’ services.
- Some providers are operating inefficient and obstructive complaints handling processes, which in turn is adding to problems with disrepair. They call on providers to review and improve their complaint handling processes.
- Strengthen requirements for providers to self-assess compliance with the Housing Ombudsman Complaints Handling Code and operate processes that are in line with this, and that the Housing Ombudsman more proactively monitors compliance with the Code.
- Powers be given to the Housing Ombudsman Service to significantly increase the compensation levels (up to £25,000) that it can offer to tenants to reflect the financial loss and avoidable inconvenience, distress and detriment experienced.
- The repeal of the ‘serious detriment’ test in the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill has been welcomed as the Committee concluded that it has clearly prevented the Regulator from properly regulating the consumer standards.
- The need for the Regulator to reconsider its interpretation of its duty to minimise interference and act proportionately, including the abolition of its stance to only intervene where there is evidence of ‘systemic failure’ by a provider.
The Government now has until 20 September 2022 to respond to the Committee’s Report.