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Guide to changes in social housing regulation in 2024

Council block to illustrate that the Decent Homes Standard currently only applies to social housing in the UK

Following the Grenfell fire in 2017 and the tragic death of Awaab Ishak in 2020 as a direct result of exposure to mould in his parent’s social home, the regulation of social housing has been significantly strengthened by the introduction of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023.

What is social housing?

Social housing is a term used in the UK to describe lower-cost rented housing provided by landlords registered with the Regulator of Social Housing. They are known as social landlords, and can be a council or a housing association.

According to the 2022-23 English Housing Survey, 16% of the housing in England is social housing.

The social housing sector is slightly smaller than separate to the private rented sector, where housing is provided by private landlords, and provides 19% of the housing in England.

Changes to the regulation of social housing from 1 April 2024

The regulation of social housing has been significantly strengthened “to raise standards, increase transparency and accountability, and engage tenants” (Source: Reshaping consumer regulation: Our new approach).

The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 came into effect on 1 April 2024, and gives the Regulator of Social Housing new powers “to put in place stronger and more active regulation of our consumer standards”. The Act also introduces new rules to protect social tenants from serious hazards in their homes.

Under the Social Housing (Regulation) Act, social landlords will now be routinely inspected, and subject to a range of potential sanctions, including appointing new management or unlimited fines. The Regulator of Social Housing will be able to investigate and take action where there is evidence about potential landlord failures in the new consumer standards.

Where individual tenants have complaints, they will continue to use the Housing Ombudsman Service for providing redress. The Regulator and the Ombudsman are due to prepare, publish and review their Memorandum of Understanding to agree how they plan to work together in regulation and the handling of complaints.

The Regulator will take action following their regular reviews of information and data, self-referrals from landlords, referrals made by a stakeholder (including tenants) and information shared with the regulator by the Housing Ombudsman or another regulator.

This is how the Regulator of Social Housing and the government press release describe the requirements that social landlords to follow from 1 April 2024:

  • maintain tenants’ homes so that they are safe and of a decent standard and provide a quality service
  • handle complaints effectively
  • listen to tenants and support them to influence decisions”
  • have a relationship with their tenants that is underpinned by shared expectations of fairness and respect and a shared understanding of their respective rights and responsibilities
  • demonstrate that they understand the diverse needs of the communities thatthey serve, and that their services reflect those diverse needs
  • have an accurate record on the condition of every home, based on checks of properties so landlords can understand any problems and take action.  
  • set clear timelines for the completion of repairs, maintenance and planned improvements, communicating them clearly to tenants. 
  • give tenants opportunities to influence and scrutinise their landlord’s services such as through meetings with tenant organisations. 
  • provide tenants with information about their rights and how to make complaints. 
  • publish the new tenant satisfaction measures to make it clear how tenants feel their landlord is performing and hold them to account. 

Consultation on Awaab’s law

The government launched a consultation in January 2024 on the implementation of “Awaab’s law” (section 42 of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023, Social housing leases: remedying hazards).

Section 42 introduces an implied term into social housing tenancy agreements to the effect that social landlords are required to fix reported health hazards within specified timeframes. The consultation seeks views on the time scales for investigations and repairs to address a wide range of hazards, not just damp and mould.

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