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Regulation of social housing providers

This content applies to England

Registered social housing providers in England are regulated by the Regulator of Social Housing.

The Regulator of Social Housing

The Regulator of Social Housing regulates registered social housing providers including local authorities and housing associations. It is a stand-alone non departmental public body of government.[1]

The Regulator of Social Housing sets consumer and economic standards for social housing providers and can take action if these are breached. Individual complaints about social housing providers should be made to the Housing Ombudsman Service.

Regulation was previously the responsibility of the Homes and Communities Agency, which was abolished in 2018.

Requirement to be registered

The regulator for social housing in England must maintain a register of social housing providers and make it available for public inspection.[2] Members of the public can view or request extracts of the register by contacting the regulator's registry unit.

All social housing providers in England are required to be on the register. This includes local authorities, housing associations, housing co-operatives, profit-making organisations and any other form of housing provider.[3]

All local authorities are regulated, including those whose stock is managed by an Arm's Length Management Organisation (ALMO) or a Tenant Management Organisation (TMO).

The Regulatory framework for social housing in England from April 2015 describes the regulator's approach.

Social housing means low cost rental accommodation and low cost home ownership accommodation as defined by sections 68-70 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.

The national register of social housing

The register contains information collected from registered providers, the lettings and sales they carry out, and their key spending.

The information includes:

  • type of homes owned
  • rent levels
  • tenant satisfaction with the overall service
  • tenant satisfaction with opportunities for participating in making decisions about the services provided
  • tenant satisfaction with repairs and maintenance

The regulator must give statutory consent on being notified about disposals of dwellings and land by private registered providers of social housing.

Registration criteria

All local authority providers are automatically registered with the social housing regulator, ie without the need to apply.

PRPSHs need to apply to register as a social housing providers and must:

  • be English bodies
  • be, or intend to be, providers of social housing in England[4]
  • satisfy the criteria established by the Regulator

These criteria are based on an applicant's financial situation, its constitution and other arrangements for its management. Non-profit making organisations are also required to have within their objects the provision of social housing, not-for-profit status and non-distribution of assets to members.

Apart from the requirement on the organisation's objects, the registration criteria are the same for both non-profit and profit-making applicants. Any organisation that applies to register, is eligible, and meets the registration criteria must be registered.[5]

More information on how to register with the regulator of social housing in England is available from the regulator.

Deregistration criteria

There are a limited number of circumstances that lead to compulsory deregistration. A provider will be removed from the register if it:[6]

  • is no longer eligible for registration
  • has ceased to carry out activities, or
  • has ceased to exist

A PRPSH can apply for voluntary deregistration on the grounds that it:

  • no longer is or intends to be a provider of social housing in England
  • is subject to regulation by another public authority whose control is likely to be sufficient (for example, by Charity Commission, Companies House or Financial Services Authority)
  • meets any relevant criteria for deregistration, including:

    • the arrangements to ensure the continued protection of tenants
    • the arrangements to ensure there is no misuse of public funds

Deregistered providers will:

  • still be subject to the regulator's consent rules for sale and transfers of housing stock unless there have been directions that any specified dwelling should cease to be social housing
  • still be subject to any conditions attached to the public funding imposed by the Home and Communities Agency (HCA)
  • be able to apply again for registration at any time

Find out more from the Regulator of Social Housing about How to deregister with the regulator of social housing.

Regulatory framework

As part of the framework for the regulation of social housing providers, the regulator of social housing sets standards which registered providers (RPs) of social housing have to meet.

RPs are local authorities and private registered providers of social housing (PRPSHs).

The regulatory framework requirements for social housing in England from 1 April 2015 are made up of:[7]

  • regulatory requirements
  • codes of practice in relation to certain standards
  • regulatory guidance in relation to the regulatory requirements and how they will be regulated

The regulatory requirements comprise consumer and economic regulatory standards.

See the Guide to regulation of registered providers for more information.

Regulatory activity is focused on the riskiest and most complex providers, with an emphasis on the provision of timely and accurate data returns.

Consumer standards

The consumer standards below apply to all RPs.[8]

Tenant involvement and empowerment standard

This requires RPs to:[9]

  • consult with tenants
  • provide good customer service and service choices to tenants (including information about any additional costs relevant to specific choices)
  • have in place a clear and accessible complaints procedure
  • respond to the diverse needs of tenants

Where a RP wishes to dispose of property to another landlord, it must:[10]

  • consult in a fair, timely, appropriate and effective manner
  • set out its proposals clearly, giving sufficient detail
  • set out actual or potential advantages and disadvantages in both the immediate and longer term
  • be able to demonstrate that they have considered the outcome of the consultation when reaching a decision

Home standard

This requires RPs to achieve quality of accommodation as set in the Decent Home Guidance and to maintain this standard afterwards, including a good state of repairs and a planned maintenance.

Under this standard, RPs must also co-operate with relevant organisations to provide an adaptations service that meets tenants' needs.[11]

Tenancy standard

This requires RPs to:[12]

  • allocate their homes in a fair, transparent and efficient way, with clear application, decision-making and appeal processes in place
  • enable mutual exchange of existing tenants and promote their access to opportunities by way of internet-based mutual exchange services
  • provide services to support tenants to maintain their tenancies and to prevent unnecessary evictions

It also requires that when deciding the types of tenancies to grant, RPs must consider the:[13]

  • purpose of the accommodation
  • needs of individual households
  • sustainability of the community
  • efficient use of housing stock

All RPs must have a clear tenancy policy setting out the matters above, including any policy on granting discretionary succession rights.[14]

In framing their policy, RPs must have regard to the tenancy strategy of the local authority in which area they operate.

Under this standard, a PRPSH can only grant a periodic assured tenancy or a fixed-term assured shorthold tenancy (this covers starter tenancies).[15]

Neighbourhood and community standard

This requires RPs to:[16]

  • consult with tenants in developing a policy for maintaining and improving their neighbourhoods
  • co-operate with relevant partners to help promote social, environmental and economic wellbeing in their areas
  • work in partnership with other public agencies to tackle anti-social behaviour

Economic standards

The economic standards apply only to PRPSHs, not to local authorities.[17]

Governance and financial viability standard

This requires that PRPSHs shall:[18]

  • ensure effective governance arrangements that deliver their aims, objectives and intended outcomes for tenants and potential tenants in an effective, transparent and accountable manner, and to manage their resources effectively to ensure their viability is maintained
  • adhere to all relevant legislation
  • comply with their governing documents and all regulatory requirements
  • be accountable to tenants, the social housing regulator and relevant stakeholders
  • safeguard taxpayers' interests and the reputation of the sector
  • have an effective risk management and internal controls assurance framework
  • manage their resources effectively to ensure viability

Value for money standard

This requires PRPSHs to:[19]

  • clearly articulate their strategic objectives
  • have an approach, agreed by their board to achieving value for money
  • articulate a strategy for delivering homes that meet a range of needs
  • optimise economy, efficiency and effectiveness

PRPSHs must set out in public annual self-assessment reports how they are meeting their obligations and how they intend to meet them in the future.[20]

Rent standard

This requires that PRPSHs shall charge rents in accordance with the objectives of the regulatory framework for social housing in England from April 2015.[21] It applies only to social housing tenants with household income of less than £60,000 in the previous financial year.[22]

The Rent Standard mandates that from April 2015, rents in PRPSH properties should, with limited exceptions, increase in each of the following ten years, by no more than CPI (consumer price index) plus 1 per cent.[23] The figure permitted increase from April 2012 to March 2014 was RPI (retiail price index) plus 0.5 per cent plus £2 a week.[24]

Where a property is let on 'affordable rent' terms, the directions is slightly different. PRPSHs can set a rent (inclusive of service charges) at up to 80% of the full market rent at the start of a tenancy or when a new tenancy is signed.[25] It can then be increased by CPI plus 1%.[26]

From March 2016 to April 2020, this standard is superseded by the requirement in the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 that social rents are cut by 1% per year.

Annual reports for tenants

All providers should publish an annual report for their tenants and include their local offers to tenants.[27]

The report must set out how the provider is meeting the regulatory standards and how the provider measures compliance against the standards, and must describe how tenants have been involved in producing and scrutinising the report.

[1] Legislative Reform (Regulator of Social Housing) (England) Order 2018 SI 2018/1040

[2] s.111 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.

[3] Part 2 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 as amended by schedules 16 and 17 Localism Act 2011.

[4] 'Social housing' means low-cost rental or low-cost home ownership as defined in ss.68-77 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008; 'provider' is defined in s.80 of the same Act.

[5] s.116 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.

[6] s.118 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.

[7] s.193 - s.195 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.

[8] s.193(1) Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.

[9] Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard, Regulator of Social Housing, July 2017.

[10] para 2.2.3 Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard (revised from 14 July 2017 by Decision Instrument 15, Homes and Communities Agency).

[11] Home Standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2012. See also section 5, A Decent Home: Definition and guidance for implementation, CLG, June 2006.

[12] Tenancy standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2012.

[13] para 1.2.1, Tenancy standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2012.

[14] para 2.2.1 Tenancy standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2012.

[15] para 2.2.2 Tenancy standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2012.

[16] Neighbourhood and Community Standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2012

[17] s.194(1) Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.

[18] Governance and Financial Viability Standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2015.

[19] Value for Money Standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2018.

[20] para 2.2, Value for Money Standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2018.

[21] Rent Standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2015.

[22] para 2.5, Rent Standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2015.

[23] Para 2.2, Rent Standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2015.

[24] Para 1.2, The Regulatory Framework for Social Housing in England from April 2012.

[25] para 2.3(a) and para 2.3(c), Rent Standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2015.

[26] para 2.2(b), Rent Standard, Regulator of Social Housing, April 2015.

[27] para 2.2.1(c) Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard, Regulator of Social Housing, July 2017.

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