Regulation of social housing providers
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.
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.
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. 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.
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 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
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.
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
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.
More information on how to register with the regulator of social housing in England is available from the regulator.
There are a limited number of circumstances that lead to compulsory deregistration. A provider will be removed from the register if it either:
is no longer eligible for registration
has ceased to carry out activities
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 and arrangements to ensure there is no misuse of public funds
Deregistered providers are:
still 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 subject to any conditions attached to the public funding imposed by the Home and Communities Agency (HCA)
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.
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).
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.
The consumer standards below apply to all RPs.
Tenant involvement and empowerment standard
This requires RPs to:
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:
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
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.
This requires RPs to:
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:
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.
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).
Neighbourhood and community standard
This requires RPs to:
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 well-being in their areas
work in partnership with other public agencies to tackle anti-social behaviour
The economic standards apply only to PRPSHs, not to local authorities.
Governance and financial viability standard
This requires that PRPSHs shall:
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:
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.
This requires that PRPSHs shall charge rents in accordance with the objectives of the regulatory framework for social housing in England from April 2015. It applies only to social housing tenants with household income of less than £60,000 in the previous financial year.
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. The figure permitted increase from April 2012 to March 2014 was RPI (retiail price index) plus 0.5 per cent plus £2 a week.
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. It can then be increased by CPI plus 1%.
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.
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.
Relationship between social housing regulator and housing Ombudsman
The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 introduced new provisions to strengthen the respective roles and improve the relationship between the regulator and the Ombudsman. The aim is to ensure a more joined up approach to regulation and the handling of complaints for the benefit of tenants, and improved exchange information powers.
The regulator and the Ombudsman are required to publish and review a memorandum of understanding outlining how they will cooperate together and how they will communicate and share information with one another. The Secretary of State must consult the housing Ombudsman when setting standards and giving directions to the social housing regulator.
The housing Ombudsman can issue a code of practice on complaint handling about the procedures members of the scheme should have in place for considering complaints against them. It must consult with the social housing regulator when making amendments to its scheme.
For more information about their respective roles and powers see the Regulator of Social Housing and Housing Ombudsman Service: factsheet on GOV.UK
Last updated: 20 September 2023