A new era of regulatory inspection

The Social Housing (Regulation) Act received Royal Assent in July 2023 and forms a new era of regulation for the social housing sector, aiming to give tenants greater powers and improve access to quick and fair solutions to problems. The Act has three core objectives which are:

• to facilitate a new, proactive consumer regulation regime;

• to refine the existing economic regulatory regime; and

• to strengthen the Regulator of Social Housing’s (Regulator) powers to enforce the consumer and economic regimes

In doing so, the Act sets out to deliver against each of these commitments:   

  • Residents to be safe in their home.
  • Residents to know how their landlord is performing.
  • Residents to have their complaints dealt with promptly.
  • Residents to be treated with respect.
  • Residents to have their voice heard by their landlord.
  • Residents to have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in. 

From 1 April 2024, the revised consumer standards and Code of Practice will apply to all registered providers. The consumer standards include:

  • The Safety and Quality Standard.
  • The Transparency, Influence and Accountability Standard 
  • The Neighbourhood and Community Standard
  • The Tenancy Standard 

A proactive approach to regulating consumer issues supports registered providers to be compliant with the consumer standards and the regulator to use its new powers to tackle landlords who aren’t meeting their commitments to residents. It also brings back regulation for stock owning Local Authority landlords. This means that Somerset Council will continue to have the regulatory relationship with the RSH and HIS will be required to provide returns to the council. Where an inspection is undertaken, Somerset Council and not HIS will be directly inspected.

On the 29th February the Regulator released guidance on how it will approach inspection from 1st April 2024. For local authorities this will be a co-regulatory approach. This means:

  • Boards and Councillors must ensure service delivery meets the Consumer Standards and are open and accountable in how the organisation meets the objectives.
  • Providers support tenants in the shaping and scrutinising of service- delivery and in holding Boards and Councillors to account.

The regulator has stated they will take a risk-based approach using the sector risk-analysis and assessments of registered providers with more than 1k homes. The sector risk profile is published annually and was provided to Board in January.

The inspection plan outlines the process and sets out the scope of a programmed inspection.Our approach to inspections – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

In anticipation of the introduction of the collection of Tenant Satisfaction measures in April 2023, we revised our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to incorporate the revised measures specified by the Regulator. These measures are reported to the Council, Board and customers and are available via our website and newsletter. Somerset Council will be required to formally report TSM performance to the Regulator by 30th June each year as part of the new regulatory framework.

From April 2024, registered providers with housing stock of over 1000 homes will be called forward for inspection on a 4-yearly cyclical basis. It is unclear when Somerset Council will be inspected. However, the Regulator has recommended providers self-assess against the new consumer standards to ensure compliance in readiness of future inspection.

Housing Ombudsman Complaint Handling Code

From 1st October 2023 all local authority landlords are required to be a member of the Housing Ombudsman (HO) Scheme. A new statutory Complaint Handling Code was released on 8th February and takes effect from 1 April 2024 with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman extending the Code across both jurisdictions.

We will submit our self-assessment annually to the council for inclusion to the Ombudsman.  The Tenant Satisfaction Measures (TSMs) will also be provided by 30th June 2024. Rachel (Customer Focus Manager) will be providing a report with our draft self-assessment as part of this (March) Board meeting. The final response will be published on our website so that residents are able to easily access this information.

The Ombudsman will review the scheme every five years, with any proposed changes approved by the Secretary of State following consultation with the Regulator of Social Housing.