A report on the Regulation of Social Housing has called for a series of measures to tackle social housing provider failures and inequalities when dealing with tenants living in homes that are not fit for human habitation.
The report, published by the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, calls for action by the regulator, social housing providers, and Government to help people living with serious disrepair including structural disrepair, active leaks and severe damp and mould among other problems.
Recommended actions for the Social Housing Ombudsman include:
- Ensure providers regularly check the condition of their stock
- Require providers to deliver genuinely local and tenant-centred housing services
- Monitor providers’ compliance with the complaint handling code
- Properly regulate consumer standards and remove the ‘serious detriment’ test, where only failures causing serious detriment to the tenant are considered breaches
- Reconsider its duty to minimise interference and act proportionately, abandoning the ‘systemic failure’ test, where it only intervenes in cases of systematic failure
- Require providers to better reflect the diversity of their communities
- Ensure tenants’ associations are not unduly influenced by providers
Recommended actions for the social housing providers include:
- Support tenants who cannot heat or ventilate their homes properly
- Putting in place systems for regularly monitoring the condition of their stock, rather than relying on tenants to report problems.
- Review and improve their complaints handling processes
- Ensure their boards and senior management teams reflect the diversity of their communities
- Support the establishment of independent tenants’ associations
Recommended actions for the Government include:
- Establish a national body to represent tenants to drive up standards in social housing
- Legislate requirements for providers to self-assess against the code and to implement complaint handling processes broadly in line with it, or that the regulator introduces a new standard to the same effect.
- Amend the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill to give the social housing ombudsman the power to award compensation up to £25,000.
Gavin Spruin, Repairs Team Leader at CEL Solicitors, said: “Social housing tenants are being failed by a system that for too long has not been working for them. Inadequate complaints procedures, and a blame culture toward tenants, are seeing vulnerable people suffer in homes that are not fit for human habitation. Worse still, even when solicitors are instructed on behalf of tenants and reach settlement agreements, many landlords are still failing to carry out the agreed and necessary repairs as promised. That’s why, whilst welcoming all the measures announced, we would go one step further, and call for tougher penalties for landlords who persistently fail to carry out repairs to act as a deterrent to the worst offenders.”