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Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, Report Stage House of Lords, 18 October 2022

Councils are determined that all tenants should have the security of a safe and well-maintained home with any issues quickly and satisfactorily addressed.


Key messages 

  • Councils are determined that all 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 Social Housing 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 carefully consider 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.
  • We are also seeking an amendment to the Bill which would remove all clauses relating to the sale of vacant higher value local authority housing in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Clauses 69-79). This will implement the Government’s commitment to not take forward the powers to require councils to sell higher value council homes outlined in the Social Housing Green Paper.
  • The LGA is pleased with the Minister’s assurances at Committee Stage that the Advisory Panel will deliver broad representation, seek diverse views and reflect issues among local authorities across the country. 

Background on Bill

The LGA’s full position on the Bill’s provisions can be found in our Second Reading briefing.

Amendments

Amendment 19 tabled by Baroness Scott of Bybrook

  • The LGA supports amendment 19. This amendment would ensure that the occupiers of premises will be given a longer period of time (48 hours’ notice rather than 24 hours) of the first exercise of the power to enter to carry out a survey. This will place occupiers in the same position as registered providers of the relevant premises.

Amendment 22 tabled by Baroness Scott of Bybrook

  • The LGA supports amendment 22. This amendment would provide important clarity to registered providers of social housing on the proposed inspection regime, by requiring the regulator to make a plan regarding the descriptions of registered providers which should be subject to inspection under section 201; the intervals at which regular inspections should be carried out, and the circumstances in which registered providers should be subject to inspections under section 201 in addition to regular inspections. The amendment requires the regulator to keep the plan under review. 
  • It is right that the regulator should be required to keep the plan under review and update as appropriate. Registered providers of social housing and tenants should be consulted on the development of the proposed plan and any subsequent revisions.

Amendment 29 tabled by Baroness Scott of Bybrook 

  • The LGA supports amendment 29. This amendment provides helpful clarity that a tenant who is entitled to receive a pre-entry notice to allow entry to their premises for emergency remedial action to be taken, can consent to earlier entry than the notice specifies or earlier than 24 hours of the notice being given. 

Amendment 31 tabled by Baroness Hayman of Ullock 

  • The LGA supports amendment 31, which on the face of the Bill commits the government to introducing a set out tenant satisfaction measures within 30 days the Act being passed, which landlords will be required to report on. 
  • The government has already committed to introducing a set of tenant satisfaction measures. All stock-holding local authorities will need to be adequately funded by the government to deliver this new statutory requirement to collect housing-related data in line with the new burdens doctrine. 

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.

Councils are rightly very concerned about the impact that rising living costs are having on social housing residents across the country. With that in mind, councils had already been considering their approach to next year’s rents to ensure that a careful balance is made between affordability for tenants and investment in the homes that they live in. 

However, decisions on the level of rent increases need to continue to be made by councils within the existing government rent policy commitment of CPI +1% limit. This will ensure that the variation in cost pressures for different local authorities can be taken into account at a local level and councils can determine the minimum rent increase necessary to meet committed expenditure requirements and essential and urgent new works, whilst balancing this with affordability for tenants. Analysis by Savills on behalf of the LGA has estimated that capping social rent increases by 5 per cent would cost councils more than £3 billion over 5 years and £45 billion over 45 years.

Contact

LGA Public Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement Team: [email protected]>

LGA News Team: [email protected]