Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, Committee Stage, House of Lords, 6 September 2022

We will want to work with the Government and the Regulator to ensure that there is a proportionate, risk-based approach to inspection, as well as urgent clarity on how this will be delivered and funded.


Key messages

  • Councils are determined that tenants should have the security of a safe and well-maintained home with any issues quickly and satisfactorily addressed. The majority of social housing landlords are responsible and provide high quality homes for people to live in.
  • We welcome proposals that will strengthen the role of the Regulator to increase the rights of tenants and enable tenants to better hold their landlord to account on consumer issues. It will be important that any new requirements or responsibilities for councils align with proposals being brought forward in both the Fire Safety Act and the Building Safety Act and are fully funded.
  • The LGA continues to support councils to improve their housing management services and engagement with tenants through the delivery of a social housing management peer challenge and promotion of best practice, as part of our sector-led improvement offer.
  • We will want to work with the Government and the Regulator to ensure that there is a proportionate, risk-based approach to inspection, as well as urgent clarity on how this will be delivered and funded. A sector-led improvement approach through use of peer reviews and performance benchmarking, could provide a complementary, or even an alternative approach to inspection.
  • Further clarity would be welcomed on the proposal to enable the Regulator to act more quickly and take action where it has concerns about the decency of a home. Social housing landlords should be allowed to and supported to manage their own journey on continuous improvement, with the Regulator’s activity prioritising intervention with landlords that are experiencing the most severe challenges. This approach would make best use of limited resources for both council landlords and the Regulator.
  • We would welcome the publication of guidance on the Regulator’s requirements and timescales for preparing and implementing Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) and expect this measure to be used prior to the use of punitive measures by the Regulator to give non-compliant landlords the opportunity to improve their performance.
  • We would like to better understand the reporting mechanisms in place which will act as the link between the lead and the Regulator on health and safety issues, and expect the Government to make sufficient new burdens funding available to enable councils to implement this new duty.
  • At present, there is a £5,000 cap on fines that the Regulator can impose on social landlords. The Government must consider carefully the implications of removing the cap. Fines on council landlords would in effect end up being paid for, at least in part, out of tenants’ rents, to the detriment of local service provision – they should only be used as a last resort.

Background on Bill

Our full position on the clauses in the Bill can be found in our Second Reading briefing.

Amendment 6, tabled by Baroness Hayman

The LGA supports amendment 6, tabled by Baroness Hayman

This amendment would ensure that there is diverse regional representation among members of the Advisory Panel, and that members can provide the Regulator with information and advice on issues which may arise or vary at the regional level.

Additionally, we would like to see the Bill go further by ensuring diversity of councils on the Panel not just in terms of region, but also authority size, quantity and quality of stock and social housing management arrangements. It is vital that the membership comprises a diverse range of councils to ensure that consumer issues across the sector are effectively represented.

Decent Homes Standard consultation

On 2 September the Government launched a consultation on introducing Decent Homes Standard in the private rented sector for the first time.

As we said in our media response, the LGA is pleased that the Government is making progress on their commitment, as set out in the Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper, to extending a legally binding Decent Homes Standard to improve conditions in the private rented sector.

It will be vital that councils are sufficiently resourced, through new burdens funding, to support the implementation of the standard. It should be introduced in a way which minimises disruption to the overall supply of stock in the private rented sector market. To go even further towards tackling insecure and unfit housing, we would like to see inappropriate Local Housing Allowance rates addressed, and councils to have stronger selective licensing powers by removing the requirement for Secretary of State approval for larger schemes.

Social housing rent cap consultation

On 31 August the Government launched a consultation inviting views from social housing tenants and landlords on a proposed rent cap in response to the rising cost of living. Under the proposals, a cap on social housing rent increases would be put in place for the coming financial year, with options at 3 per cent, 5 per cent and 7 per cent being considered.

In a joint response Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association and Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said:

“Councils and not-for-profit housing associations are very concerned about the impact rising living costs are having on social housing residents.

“Housing providers have been carefully considering their approach to next year’s rents and will do all they can to keep increases low where possible. Working with partners, councils and housing associations will continue to do what they can to protect people from hardship, targeting help at people facing the most complex and acute challenges.

“We are glad to have the opportunity to respond to the Government’s consultation and will be talking to members over the coming weeks before responding in more detail.

“However, we are very concerned that a new cap on social housing rent increases will significantly impact on housing providers’ ability to provide critical services for residents and invest in new and existing homes.

“Decisions on the level of rent increases for tenants need to be made by housing providers within the existing government rent policy commitment, ensuring that there is a careful balance between affordability for tenants and investment in the homes that they live in.

“If the Government does take forward a lower cap, then it should provide additional funding for 2023/24 and for future years so that housing providers can continue to safeguard services and meet the country’s future housing needs.”

Contact

LGA Public Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement Team

Email: melanie.haslam@local.gov.uk 

LGA News Team

Email: joe.difford@local.gov.uk