CWAG News Update April 2022

CWAG News Update April 2022

This update includes the following: 

·         Government scraps Building Safety Manager requirement
·         Housing Ombudsman strengthens Complaints Handling Code
·         Government sets out plans to improve the quality of social housing
·         Diary Date – Next CWAG Meeting
·         Recent Publications
 

Government scraps Building Safety Manager requirement

 

The Government has set out further amendments to the Building Safety Bill removing the requirement for building owners to employ a building safety manager on high rise blocks.
 
This change reflects the new approach set out by DLUHC in January based around protecting leaseholders and making building owners and developers take responsibility for fixing building safety issues.
 
The Bill originally required landlords of high-rise blocks to employ a building safety manager to ensure fire safety compliance. The plan envisaged that costs associated with this would be covered through a building safety charge payable by leaseholders in addition to the service charge.
 
By removing the legal requirement to employ a building safety manager the government is focussing responsibility on the Accountable Person, usually the building owner, to ensure fire safety requirements are met. The separate building safety charge is also to be removed with additional safety costs to be included in leaseholder service charges.
 
In addition, the government has extended leaseholder protections to small landlords (owning up to three properties). As a result of these amendments the government claims many leaseholders will now pay nothing for remediation works, with no leaseholder paying more than £10,000 (£15,000 in London) in total.
 
These amendments are a response to concerns raised by leaseholders about escalating costs and aim to provide some longer-term financial protection.
 

Housing Ombudsman strengthens Complaints Handling Code

 

The Housing Ombudsman has published an initial review of the Complaints Handling Code introduced in 2020. The review covers the period April 2020 – March 2021 and brings together insights from casework, performance reports and recent resident panel and landlord surveys.
 
Key issues for social landlords are identified including:
 
  • Addressing the finding that not all landlords have adopted a positive complaint handling culture
  • Increasing trust among residents that complaining will make a difference
  • Procedural failings as evidenced by high uphold rates for complaints about complaint handling
  • Inadequate records with poor record keeping being a common finding
  • Missed or unproductive appointments
  • Poor communication and lack of follow up.
 
The Housing Ombudsman's Annual Complaints Review is available here
 
In response to the review findings, the Housing Ombudsman has strengthened and updated the Complaints Handling Code with a focus on promoting a positive complaints culture. Measures include:
 
·         Enhanced obligations on landlords to raise awareness of the complaints process and the Housing Ombudsman.
·         A member of the governing body should be appointed with lead responsibility for complaints to support a positive complaint handling culture.
·         Landlords should adopt a standard objective in relation to complaint handling for all employees referencing established professional standards.
·         The importance of learning from complaints should be reinforced by an explicit requirement to undertake an annual self-assessment.
 
Changes take effect from 1 April 2022 and landlords have until 1 October 2022 to become compliant. Further details - The Housing Ombudsman Complaints Handling Code Revised March 2022
 

Government sets out plans to improve the quality of social housing

 

On 29th March 2022, the Government published a summary of current policy initiatives aimed at improving the quality of social housing and delivering on commitments made in the Social Housing White Paper.
 
These include:
 
·         Commitment set out in the Levelling Up White Paper to reduce the number of non-decent rental homes by 50% by 2050.
 
·         Various initiatives around improving complaints handling and promoting the services of the Housing Ombudsman including a new factsheet explaining the role of the Ombudsman and how residents can seek help
 
·         Publication of an anti-social behaviour information pack for tenants experiencing anti-social behaviour.
 
·         Professionalism Review looking at training and qualification levels in the social housing sector and whether additional training is required to improve services to residents.
 
·         New regulations around the installation of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms by October 2022 as well as a forthcoming consultation on electrical safety.
 
·         New initiatives to improve Regulation of the social housing sector including the launch of a Social Housing Quality Residents Panel and proposals to name and shame failing landlords who have breached the Regulator’s consumer standards or where the Housing Ombudsman has made a severe maladministration finding.
 
·         Publication of draft clauses to be included in forthcoming legislation to implement changes to regulation  as set out in the Social Housing White Paper. Publication now is intended to signal the Government’s intention to progress this legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows.
 

Next CWAG General Meeting – 19th May 2022

 

The next CWAG General Meeting will we held on Thursday 19th May 2022 (9.30a.m. – 11.30a.m.)
 
The meeting theme will focus on effective complaints handling includingthe link between a positive complaints handling culture and wider measures to mitigate the risk of successful disrepair claims. 
 
There will be a presentation by Rebecca Reed, Head of Insight and Development at the Housing Ombudsman. Rebecca will discuss complaints handling issues and trends, including learning from recent casework, key drivers behind increasing complaint volumes and practical steps councils should be taking as landlords to improve and strengthen performance.
 
The meeting will also consider the current rise in disrepair claims and include case study material and the opportunity to discuss different approaches and share best practice.
  
Please contact the Policy Officer for further details and the meeting link.
 

Recent Publications

 

Three-year Corporate Plan sets out how the Housing Ombudsman Service plans to manage the unprecedented increase in demand for its services given the changing role and importance of complaints handling.
 
This report shines a light on problems experienced by social landlords where properties are developed through Section 106 Agreements. Social landlords with a headlease sit between individual leaseholders, freeholders and private sector managing agents with relationships ‘often strained and at worst dysfunctional’.
 

The report includes a recommendation for local authorities to ensure social landlords are involved at an early stage of schemes involving Section 106 Agreements. Failure to do so can result in long-term problems being ‘baked-in’ prior to the involvement of the social landlord. As a result, some social landlords are seeking to reduce their exposure in this sector with implications for future social housing provision.