Failing social housing landlords risk unlimited fines and Ofsted-style inspections, under the Social Housing Regulation Bill.
The new Bill is part of the Government’s Levelling Up agenda, aimed at reducing the number of low-quality rental housing by half by 2030 and ensuring people live in decent, well-maintained homes.
Under the Bill, the Regulator of Social Housing is to be given more powers to intervene where social housing providers are failing to meet standards. The Regulator will be given the authority to issue unlimited fines, enter properties with only 48 hours’ notice (down from 28 days) and to make emergency repairs at the landlord’s expense when tenants are at risk.
In particular, the new powers are designed to tackle housing issues such as damp, cold and unsafe homes, and preventing landlords from ignoring tenants.
Tenants are also being given the opportunity to rate landlord services and obtain information about their landlord.
A new 250-person residents panel will meet every four months to discuss their experiences with ministers, inspire policy thinking, and assist reform in the sector, giving tenants a direct route to government.
The Bill is the most recent step in addressing the systemic flaws in social housing exposed in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, which include not only the safety and quality of social housing, but also how tenants are treated by their landlords.
The Social Housing (Regulation) Bill eliminates the ‘serious detriment test’, a legislative stumbling block that, once removed, will make it easier for the Regulator to deal with failing landlords.
The largest social housing providers will be subjected to frequent inspections, and the Levelling Up Secretary will continue to name and shame the worst offenders in order to ensure that tenants live in decent accommodation.
Landlords will also be required to appoint a named person to be accountable for health and safety standards under the Bill. Similarly to how the Freedom of Information Act works for council housing, tenants of housing associations will be allowed to seek information from their landlord.