How to achieve effective governance for your property compliance activities

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As a specialist housing compliance consultant, we work with boards and executive management teams to ensure they have appropriate controls and governance to satisfy their compliance obligations  in respect of the “big five” areas of gas, electric, asbestos, fire and legionella.

During our most recent Compliance Masterclass, effective board governance was raised as being one of the most critical compliance challenges that social housing providers face.

As part of our work undertaking Compliance Health Checks for a diverse range of social housing providers nationally, we are able to summarise the key compliance pitfalls facing providers in respect of the “big five” as well as recommend how to overcome them.

Common compliance pitfalls

In our experience the common compliance pitfalls affecting providers are:

  • Weak governance
  • Misguided assurance
  • Not knowing ‘what they need to do to comply’
  • Incomplete, missing and/or outdated policies
  • Limited or inaccurate reporting
  • Lack of asset/data validation

Compliance best practice – governance and leadership

As we have helped many providers navigate their way out of these common pitfalls, we are able to share insight on how to avoid them in the first place. It’s primarily about good robust governance and strong effective leadership.

Compliance has to be a strategic priority. Boards need to know what to look for and what to query.  They should encourage a culture that is free to question, challenge and debate. There ought to be clear, persistent and regular communication about compliance; its importance as is how it is being managed.  In addition, boards must keep a firm grip on performance through a continuous cycle of checking and validating data.  If required, boards should also engage proactively and positively with the Regulator, particularly if they have a non-compliance issue.

Strong effective leadership is about ensuring there is clear ownership and accountability for compliance within the organisation, as well as a robust management approach to the application of policies and procedures, service delivery and performance monitoring. It is about harnessing a positive “open” culture where people do not have to be “guarded” about what they report and to whom.

Two key questions to ask

In general, we also recommend that boards and executive management teams continually ask the following questions:

  1. How can we be assured that we are fully complying?
  2. How do we know that what we are being told is accurate/true?

Responses to the first question may include:

  • Do we know what the key regulation, legislation, and codes of practice are?
  • Do we know what we need to do to respond and adhere to the key regulation, legislation, and codes of practice?
  • Do we know who owns each area of compliance both strategically and operationally? (Named persons should be assigned to provide clear ownership and accountability)
  • Do we have clarity on how we managed risk in each compliance area?
  • Do we have a signed Policy (and associated procedure, process map and audit) in-line with our risk management for each compliance area?
  • Do we have clarity on control, control owners and control evaluation

In respect of the second question, boards and management teams should check for their assumptions and probe for evidence. We are also aware of some management teams undertaking a “deep dive” within a compliance area every quarter to provide assurance that it has been appropriately validated the information is being reported.

As a specialist housing compliance consultant we help social housing providers understand and deliver their statutory compliance obligations. For further information about how a housing compliance consultant can help you, please email JNeville@pennington.org.uk

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