RSH starts recruitment drive as it prepares to take on powers to inspect and fine landlords for failures

The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has announced the launch of a pilot inspection programme featuring seven social landllords as it gears up to take a more proactive role on tenant issues in the wake of forthcoming legislation.

Details of the plan were published today in a document setting out how it will prepare to regulate from April 2024 once the Social Housing Regulation Bill’s measures have come into effect.

regulations governance

The bill, tabled by the government in response to concerns over conditions in some social housing properties, will give a beefed up RSH more powers to inspect landlords.

RSH said it will inspect every large social landlord, including local authorities, against new standards on a rolling four-year basis.

Seven providers will take part in an initial pilot: Bernicia Homes, Brunelcare, Cheshire Peaks and Plains, Eastbourne council, Folkestone and Hythe council, Guinness and Torus.

The new legislation, which is expected to be passed in the next few weeks, increases the consumer role for the RSH, adding objectives of safety, transparency and energy efficiency to its formal objectives.

Currently the RSH can usually only intervene on a consumer issue where a ‘serious detriment’ test is passed – placing a high threshold on the regulator’s ability to use its powers. The bill removes this test, meaning RSH can intervene in more tenant complaint cases. It gives RSH the power to set performance improvement plans backed up with penalties for landlords who do not deliver.

It will have the power to issue unlimited fines, order emergency repairs and access homes at short notice.

>>See also: Toddler death prompts calls for action on housing quality

The RSH from April will require social landlords to begin collecting information about their performance against new tenant satisfaction measures.

From 2024 RSH will use this, along with evidence from tenants, previous monitoring and the Housing Ombudsman, to target inspections for each landlord on areas of potential concern.

RSH said it has also started to recruit more staff to enable it to carry out its expanded role and said a further recruitment drive will start after the bill has been passed by Parliament

The RSH said the Grenfell tragedy and the death of toddler Awaab Ishak due to exposure to black mould have “highlighted a range of important issues, some of which are the very core of the new approach to consumer regulation in social housing”.

It said: “We are mindful of the legacy of these tragedies and are committed to implementing a new consumer regulation regime that delivers lasting improvements to the quality of housing and services for social housing tenants.

“Landlords should be under no illusion as to our resolve to take forward our new remit and powers”

It said ensuring that landlords “listen to their tenants, communicate effectively, have good quality information about the condition of the homes and provide responsive and accessible landlord services” will be at the heart of its approach. 

New regulatory standards for social landlords in England

The Social Housing Regulation Bill is expected to be passed early this year. It will add safety, transparency and energy efficiency to the Regulator of Social Housing’s (RSH) objectives.

Following this, the government will issue directions to the RSH on aspects of the new standards.

The RSH will then draft the new standards landlords are required to meet and consult on them.

The standards are expected to cover five broad areas.

  • Safety
  • Quality
  • Neighbourhood
  • Transparency
  • Engagement and accountability
  • Tenancy