Purpose of The Consumer Regulation Review
The Consumer Regulation Review offers a summary of the consumer regulation work conducted by the Regulator of Social Housing in 2017/18. The report sets out the role that the regulator plays in consumer regulation, examples of work that they conduct, and summarises the key messages the sector needs to be aware of. Their primary aim is to support the maintenance of quality housing stock and ensure tenants are protected in an appropriate and reasonable manner.
The review identifies how the events at Grenfell Tower have refocused attention onto ensuring tenant safety in homes through compliance with statutory health and safety requirements.
The paper provides several key messages regarding the sector’s current position:
- Registered providers must ensure that they are aware of their statutory responsibility and be able to demonstrate a clear understanding of these in all areas (gas safety, fire safety, electrical safety and asbestos).
- Landlords must be aware that contracting out the delivery of services such as gas and fire safety does not remove responsibility away from the landlord in meeting legislation.
- Complaint management is valuable to identify where problems regularly lie and how this can demonstrate breaches within the system. Once such failures have been identified, registered providers should ensure that they have the systems in place to rectify the problem.
How does the Regulator of Social Housing Work?
The process of consumer regulation comprises of three main stages:
- An initial review is carried out that identifies whether a complaint/referral falls within the regulator’s remit and if it represents a breach.
- The team will try to determine whether the problem has the potential to cause serious harm to tenants.
- Further information will be attained from the registered providers or the person who made the referral (only in cases where more detailed information regarding the case is needed).
When a breach in consumer standards is identified, a regulatory notice will be published. The most appropriate method for providers to demonstrate progress is to undertake prompt, self-motivated action to demonstrate that they are meeting their health and safety obligations and that tenants are no longer at risk in their homes.
Following from the Grenfell Fire incident, the Regulator wrote to all registered organisations and reminded them of their obligations to fully comply with standards. As a result several compliance related safety issues were self-referred to the regulator and valuable lessons learned from organisations that were found to be non-compliant with their statutory obligations.
- Central and Cecil: Central and Cecil identified a fire risk in some of their own properties as a result of overdue fire risk assessments in a number of their blocks. The regulator assessed this self-referral as being a significant breach of the Home Standard and highlighted that it required the timely completion of all necessary fire risk assessments in order to meet the standards. The issues faced by the provider were caused by several different systems being used in the management of fire safety, demonstrating the importance of a singular or joined up system in meeting the standards.
- Creative Support Limited: the regulator was informed that a significant number of Creative Supports’ properties were without a valid gas safety certificate and it was concluded that this was a result of having an ineffective system in place to schedule inspections in a timely manner. This highlights the importance of effective governance to ensure that legal obligations and the policies of the organisation are delivered and evidenced.
- Vivid Housing Limited: following the merger of two housing associations Vivid discovered that a small number of its properties were without a valid gas safety certificate, and had been for a number of years. This was due to data inaccuracies regarding the presence of gas appliances and highlighted the importance of maintaining accurate asset and stock condition data.
- Raven: Raven discovered that a number of properties had been excluded from the water-testing programme resulting in an unknown legionella risk to tenants. In addition, Raven notified the regulator of a second breach of health and safety requirements, relating to electrical testing, whereby the recommended actions from the Electrical Installation Condition Reports had not been completed. The case highlights the importance of providers understanding all of their statutory requirements fully and having a competent risk management framework in place to prevent non-compliance in health and safety.
An interesting point of note from this report was that, out of the 543 consumer referrals only 5 (1%) of these lead to regulatory action being undertaken. In addition, the number of referrals from providers themselves increased from 24% to 48% from the 2016/17 report to the 2017/18 report. The significant increase in provider referrals is believed to be motivated by the Grenfell Fire incident, which caused providers to take pro-active actions to ensure tenant safety. As strong advocates of open and honest dialogue with the regulator it is our opinion that this will only serve to benefit all sector participants moving forward.
Pennington Choices works closely with registered providers to ensure that tenants are not at risk and statutory compliance obligations are being met. Our consultants and technical experts work across fire safety, gas safety, electrical safety, asbestos management and water hygiene, to help Landlords deliver their statutory obligations and advise on steps required to overcome any shortfalls.
The Consumer Regulation Review can be found here.
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