Co-regulation what does it mean?

07 Dec 2011

The approach to social housing regulation is built around co-regulation. What does this mean? Well it means there should be robust self regulation by boards and Councillors who govern the delivery of housing services. This must incorporate effective tenant involvement and be subject to a back bone of regulatory standards laid down by Government.

The standards are based on clear criteria and focus on outcomes. Housing providers are to agree the local service standards with their tenants.

There are 6 standards relating to:

  •  Tenancy involvement and empowerment
  •   Home
  •  Tenancy
  •  Neighbourhood and community
  •  Value for money
  •  Governance and financial viability.

Registered providers have to set out in an annual report how they are meeting these standards.

The TSA (Tenant Services Authority) presently regulates the work of social landlords (Councils, Arms Length Management Organisations and Housing Associations) to ensure they are well run, financially stable, and that they provide high quality services for tenants. The TSA was established to raise the standards of services for affordable housing tenants. However as part of the cut backs it is to be abolished and its role transferred to an independent Regulatory Committee within the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) from April 2012.

Important changes to the regulatory framework are being proposed to come into effect when the role is transferred to HCA in April. These changes are explained in a consultation document - ‘A revised regulatory framework for social housing in England from April 2012’. Formal responses should be made by 10th February 2012 to StatutoryConsultation@tsa.gsi.gov.uk

The tenant empowerment standard is strengthened but generally the standards have not changed significantly. Local offers (services offered) still apply and tenants will get annual reports saying how their landlord or managing agent has met the standards.

The main change has been made in the Localism Act. Basically, this will mean that whilst the Regulator will set the standards there will be no proactive monitoring of service providers in relation to consumer regulation. Standards relating to consumer regulation are the first 4 standards as set out above. Providers ie landlords must meet the standards and tenants must have the opportunity to hold them to account. Regulating consumer standards will be the responsibility of providers working with tenants through scrutiny arrangements such as the Wolverhampton Homes Review Panel.

Tenant panels, Councillors and MPs will be able to get involved if standards are not met, and refer complaints to the Housing Ombudsman service. After a last minute change of heart by the Government tenants will also be able to take complaints personally to the Ombudsman.

The Regulator (the HCA) will have no responsibility in the monitoring of standards, or in relation to individual complaints, or in relation to disseminating guidance or good practice. It will only intervene in cases of ‘serious detriment’. There is no definition of ‘serious detriment’, but the assessment is in relation ‘to harm or potential harm to tenants’.

We at the Federation are concerned that tenants will have less opportunity to hold landlords and service providers to account if service levels fall as the Regulator will only intervene in extreme circumstances. Could this mean a gradual lowering of standards?

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