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Clear link between poor governance and compliance with consumer standards, social housing regulator reports

The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has outlined areas of improvement for social housing landlords in its ninth annual consumer regulation review.

The review found good performance among landlords that kept good quality records, tried various ways to engage with tenants, and used insight from complaints to review their operation.

But social housing landlords who could not demonstrate effective governance arrangements were found to be more often involved in practices that did not comply with the consumer standards.

The link between poor governance and poor consumer regulation was "particularly evident," the report said. For example, the regulator reported that registered providers that did not meet all applicable statutory requirements to keep tenants safe often had a gap or failure in their governance arrangements.

Providers operating a lease-based model were the ones most often found to be failing to adequately manage the risks to vulnerable tenants by not ensuring statutory health and safety requirements were met.

One case highlighted in the report involved a lease-based provider, Hilldale Housing Association, which was found in breach of the Governance and Financial Viability Standard for a range of issues, including that the provider did not have effective risk management and an internal controls assurance framework.

In reaching its decision on Hilldale Housing, RSH took into account the failure to ensure that statutory health and safety requirements were met, "which we consider to be a fundamental failure of the governance arrangements in place," the report said.

Most of the complaints received by the regulator were made by individual tenants, followed by self-referrals from registered providers, including local authorities.

Fiona MacGregor, RSH Chief Executive, urged sector landlords to consider the steps they can take now to ensure their services and engagement with tenants meet existing requirements.

MacGregor also called on providers to "prepare now" to meet the direction of travel signalled in the Social Housing White Paper, The Charter for Social Housing Residents.

The white paper lays out measures to deliver "transformational change" for social housing residents. As part of this effort, the provisions of the white paper will enable the RSH to take a proactive approach to consumer regulation.

In preparation for its new powers, the RSH has begun to design a revised regulatory framework that will meet the following three tests: to make a meaningful difference to tenants, be deliverable by landlords, and be to be regulated effectively.

Currently, no timetable is attached to delivering the measures set out in the Social Housing White Paper.

Adam Carey

Fraser Public Sector 600

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