The Regulator of Social Housing will have stronger powers to issue unlimited fines, enter properties with only 48 hours’ notice and make emergency repairs.
The changes are included in the Social Housing Regulation Bill, which the government claimed would drive up standards and bolster the regulator’s powers and mean, “more people living in decent, well looked-after homes”.
In a major reset of power between tenants and landlords, residents will be able to demand information and rate their landlord. This means tenants will have a direct line to the government, with a 250-person residents panel convening every four months for tenants to share their experiences with ministers.
The government said this would help it inform policy thinking and drive change in the sector as well as address systemic issues identified following the Grenfell Tower tragedy on the safety and quality of social housing.
Michael Gove, Levelling Up Secretary said: “In 2022 it is disgraceful that anyone should live in damp, cold and unsafe homes, waiting months for repairs and being routinely ignored by their landlord. These new laws will end this injustice and ensure the regulator has strong new powers to take on rogue social landlords.
“We are driving up the standards of social housing and giving residents a voice to make sure they get the homes they deserve. That is levelling up in action.”
The bill will remove the serious detriment test which will make it easier for the regulator to tackle poor performing landlords.
The largest social housing providers will face regular inspections and the Levelling Up Secretary will continue to name and shame the worst offenders, earlier this month, he called out Britain’s biggest social landlord Clarion after the Housing Ombudsman found severe cases of maladministration.
The bill will also require landlords to have a named person responsible for health and safety requirements, and tenants of housing associations will be able to request information from their landlord, similar to how the Freedom of Information Act works for council housing.
Secure, good quality affordable homes.
Lord John Bird, crossbench peer and founder of The Big Issue, said: “I’m pleased to hear that the government has committed to introducing legislation through the Social Housing Regulation Bill to strengthen protections for private renters and the socially rented sector. It is vital for all residents to live in a safe, secure, good quality and affordable home.”
“These protections for renters is a welcome step from the government, and I hope to see further preventative measures put in place to help people, especially those who are already struggling to make ends meet, remain in their homes and not be put at risk of homelessness. There is still more that can be done to safeguard low-income renters and reduce inequality, so let’s make sure we carry on building on this progress.”
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said having a home that was warm and dry, safe, secure and affordable was the right of every person in this country.
“For social housing providers this means providing high quality living standards in every home and carrying out repairs on time.
“Government data shows that on average social homes are better quality than other rented homes, however we have seen instances where social housing tenants have had to live in substandard properties and this is not acceptable.”
She added that over 200 housing associations had already taken steps to strengthen relationships between residents and landlords by signing up to Together with Tenants, a sector-led initiative which sets new standards for tenant and landlord relationships. “Alongside this, the National Housing Federation and the Chartered Institute of Housing are working together to support housing associations to take collective action on quality issues, details of which will be published imminently.”
The bill marks the latest step in response to the Grenfell Tower fire, following on from the Building Safety Act and last year’s Fire Safety Act.
Last month the Renters Reform Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech. It includes a “new deal” for the 4.4 million households privately renting across England by extending the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector for the first time.
Sarah Werner, chief executive of rental insurance company Husmus, said she was pleased to see planning remain in place to provide tenants with new rights.
“With interest rates rising and the cost of living soaring, we are hopeful that these plans will address the financial accessibility of rented homes.” “There are some really positive indicators being made in the announcement from the government, but hopefully more will happen in the coming months.”