CWAG News Update - March 2022

CWAG News Update - March 2022

This update includes the following: 

·         Building Safety Bill Update
·         Consultation Response – Tenant Satisfaction Measures
·         Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund - Update
·         Housing Ombudsman Updates
·         Recent Publications
 

This update includes the following: 

·         Building Safety Bill Update
·         Consultation Response – Tenant Satisfaction Measures
·         Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund - Update
·         Housing Ombudsman Updates
·         Recent Publications
 

Building Safety Bill Update

On 14th February 2022, the Government tabled a set of amendments to the Building Safety Bill which aim to deliver on the government’s promise to protect leaseholders from building safety remediation costs and ensure developers, manufacturers and building owners pay for works to make blocks safe.
 
These amendments establish a statutory hierarchy of funding sources for non-cladding building safety remediation costs. Each funding source will need to be exhausted before the next tier is triggered.
 
1.      Developers and cladding manufacturers are expected to pay first.
Enforcement is proposed through a range of measures including:
  • Sanctions for those refusing to pay, including losing the ability to receive planning permission and building control sign off for their projects.
  • New powers to prevent developers avoiding liability by using shell companies for individual developments. Where the parent company linked to the original development firm is still trading the liability will revert to them.
  • Cost contribution orders for cladding and insulation manufacturing firms convicted of an offence and new powers for residents to sue manufacturers under the Defective Premises Act.
2.      Freeholders are expected to pay next, subject to their ability to pay.
  • The proposed amendment requires freeholders with resources to pay the full cost of remediation works, putting the freeholders liability to pay ahead of the leaseholder.
3.      Leaseholders will only be expected to pay a capped amount once other potential funding sources are exhausted.
  • Leaseholder contributions will be capped at £15,000 in London and £10,000 elsewhere.
  • Any costs paid out be leaseholders towards building safety in the past 5 years will count towards the capped amount e.g. waking watch payments. Caps will also be reduced on a pro-rata basis for shared ownership.
 
Implications for local authority and other social landlords
These amendments do not draw a distinction between developers and local authorities. So far, there is no indication that the social sector will be given special treatment and excluded from these additional financial liabilities, which has implications for the Housing Revenue Account (HRA). In addition, there is a separate concern about developments on council owned land where the council is the freeholder. See LGA briefing on the Building Safety Bill for further details and related LGA ‘asks’.
 

Consultation Response – Tenant Satisfaction Measures

CWAG members met on 17th February to consider the Regulator of Social Housing’s (RSH) consultation on Tenant Satisfaction Measures (TSMs).
 
Kate Dodsworth, Head of Consumer Regulation at RSH introduced the session outlining the role of TSMs and the wider regulatory and cultural shift which aims to provide a clearer focus on how tenants experience landlord services. TSMs are one element of more proactive consumer regulation.
 
 At the time of our meeting, the RSH had already received in excess of 300 responses to the consultation, an indicator of the widespread interest and debate that has been generated around the consultation.
 
There are 22 proposed TSMs which track the 5 key themes in the Social Housing White Paper:
·         Keeping properties in good repair
·         Maintaining building safety
·         Effective handling of complaints
·         Respectful and helpful engagement
·         Responsible neighbourhood management.
 
CWAG members were keen to acknowledge that TSMs will provide insights into landlord performance and recognise that tenants may find the information useful in comparing their landlord with others. However, the data is at a very high level from a tenant perspective which may undermine the primary objective of TSMs which is to provide greater transparency on landlord performance in a way that is meaningful to tenants.
 
Other feedback highlighted a concern that TSMs are overly reliant on high level perception data. Members felt perception surveys may pick up dated, inaccurate or subjective views, for example on quality of repair and other technical issues, giving a distorted picture of landlord performance. It would therefore be helpful to include additional measures to triangulate performance data. For example, data from the English House Condition Survey would offer a broader perspective on stock condition, providing an independent check to balance results based on perception data alone.
Some CWAG members also felt that transactional surveys should be included where they provide more focussed and accurate data, for example on anti-social behaviour and for evaluating performance on repairs.
 
The technical part of the consultation (as detailed in the consultation annexes) is very difficult to either agree or disagree with at this point. CWAG members suggested that it would be helpful to run the proposed system initially as a pilot to test the methodology and identify any issues and discrepancies prior to implementing full publication and regulatory scrutiny.
 

Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund – Update

The 2019 Conservative Manifesto included a proposal for a £3.8bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) over a 10- year period, to improve the energy performance of social rented homes.
 
The 2020 Summer Economic Update announced the £50m Demonstrator fund (later increased to £61m) to deliver innovative retrofit projects for social housing, demonstrating a targeted performance level and cost reduction. The Demonstrator Programme covered 18 projects and 2100 dwellings and was focussed on learning lessons about high complexity whole house retrofits.
 
The Government then announced £160m (later increased to £179m) for Wave 1 of the SHDF in financial year 2021/22 (projects are due to complete by March 2023). This programme includes 69 projects  and is due to deliver upgrades to 20,000 social housing properties with Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of D or lower. The programme has a focus on ‘fabric first’ heat loss prevention measures in preparation for low carbon heating, either now or in the future.
 
The 2021 Spending Review has committed a further £800 million to the SHDF for the three-year period. The bidding round for Wave 2 will be launched in the new financial year and will again focus on ‘fabric first’ and ‘clean heat where appropriate’. Support is available for local authorities wishing to bid – see Self-Assessment and Presentation on Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund by Matt Harrison – BEIS Programme Director.
 

Housing Ombudsman Updates

In February the Housing Ombudsman Service published three reports providing feedback and learning from recent complaints handling casework.
 
Insight Report Issue 9 covering October – December 2021 including a regional focus on the North of England.
The volume of enquiries and complaints to the Housing Ombudsman service has continued to rise steeply – the service received 6,313 enquiries and complaints between October and December 2021, a rise of 53% as compared to the same quarter in 2020. Maladministration was found to have occurred in 47% of cases, also an increase on the previous review period.
 
Key learning points highlighted include the importance of effective communication, mediation to achieve earlier resolution and continued monitoring of ASB complaints.
 
Report into complaint handling failure orders issued October -December 2021
The purpose of complaint handling failure orders is to ensure that a landlord’s complaint handling process is accessible, consistent and enables the timely progression of complaints for residents.
Complaint handling failures orders are used in cases of:
·         Landlord’s unreasonable delays in accepting or progressing a complaint through its process
·         Unreasonable delays in providing complaint information requested by the Ombudsman
·         Complaints procedures and processes that are not being compliant with the Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code.
This report covers the 19 complaint handling failure orders issued between October and December 2021 and includes 3 case studies demonstrating how and when failure orders are used. Read Report
 
 

Recent Publications

 

Social Housing Reform in England: What Next? Research Briefing published by the House of Commons Library (February 2022)
 
This briefing paper considers the period since the Grenfell Fire in June 2017, setting out the government’s plans for reform of social housing and progress achieved to date. Ongoing issues and concerns are identified including:
 
·         the slow pace of social housing reform;
·         failure to address issues around the supply of homes for social rent;
·         lack of clarity about who and what social housing is for;
·         failure to fully address the issue of stigma, exacerbated by the Government’s strong focus on home ownership;
·         lack of a national platform or representative body to represent tenants’ interests;
·         potential resourcing challenges for social landlords.
 

Download Report