Reforms announced by the government will make social housing landlords more accountable and speed up the complaints procedure.

Social housing is set to be reformed to make landlords more accountable and to give tenants a greater voice, according to proposals published by the government this week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced plans for a new charter setting out the standards tenants in the sector can demand from their landlords. 

“We’re levelling up this country, making it fairer for everyone – and that includes making sure social housing tenants are treated with the respect they deserve,” he wrote in the Social Housing White Paper 2020.

Such standards include living in a property that meets safety standards and is in good repair, and giving tenants the chance to have their voice heard through regular meetings and scrutiny panels with landlords.

In a bid to increase accountability, tenants will also have a right to know how their landlord is performing against a set of tenant satisfaction measures in areas such as repairs, complaints and safety, as well as how money is being spent.

The government also announced plans to speed up the complaints procedure for residents and to strengthen the Regulator of Social Housing and Housing Ombudsman to help drive the cultural change required and ensure complaints are dealt with promptly and fairly.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I want to see social housing tenants empowered by a regulatory regime and a culture of transparency, accountability, decency and service befitting of the best intentions and deep roots of social housing in this country.”

Why is this happening?

The plans are in response to a Conservative party manifesto pledge to provide social housing tenants with greater redress, better regulation and to improve the quality of their homes.

The government is also delivering on a promise it made to the Grenfell community that the voice of tenants would never go unheard again.

A total of 72 people died due to a fire at the Grenfell Tower block in west London in June 2017. The tragedy prompted the government to have a "fundamental rethink" on social housing.

Who does it affect?

Around 4m people live in social housing in England but the safety standards for the sector fall below those required for the private rental sector.

In the past, social housing tenants have also had to wait for several months in order to get complaints resolved, while the regulator has not conducted proactive investigations or inspections but only acted once things have gone wrong.

The new measures should not only increase the safety of social housing, but should also give tenants more opportunities to provide input on the state of their accommodation.

What’s the background?

The government is launching a consultation on making it mandatory to have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in all rental homes to bring the social housing sector in line with the private rental one.

The government also reaffirmed its commitment to helping social tenants who want to become homeowners to do so through the Right to Buy initiative and its new Right to Shared Ownership scheme for housing association tenants in new grant-funded homes.

Top three takeaways

  • Social housing is set to be reformed with a new charter to make landlords more accountable and to give tenants a greater voice

  • Under the new standards information will be published showing how landlords are performing in areas such as repairs, complaints and safety to increase accountability

  • The government also announced plans to speed up the complaints procedure for residents and strengthen the Regulator of Social Housing and Housing Ombudsman. 

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