The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023
The UK government recently passed legislation aimed at improving conditions and accountability in social housing. The Social Housing (Regulation) Act received Royal Assent on July 20th, 2023, bringing significant reforms that will impact millions of social housing residents.
What Changes Are Being Made?
The Social Housing (Regulation) Act implements new changes to uphold standards, protect tenants, and empower residents. The key changes include:
- Strengthening the Regulator of Social Housing with new powers to carry out regular inspections of the largest providers and issue unlimited fines to landlords found in violation of rules.
- Granting additional powers to the Housing Ombudsman to publish best practice guidance in response to tenant complaints. This will promote transparency and dissemination of guidelines to drive sector-wide improvement.
- Enabling time limits to be imposed on social housing landlords to address critical hazards like damp, mould and other unsanitary or unsafe conditions within their properties.
- New qualification requirements for social housing managers. This will professionalise the sector and ensure appropriate training and expertise.
- Allowing stronger economic regulation and scrutiny of financial transactions to prevent inappropriate use of funds outside the sector to improve governance and accountability.
Addressing Systemic Sector Issues
The Act is the latest step in addressing extensive systemic issues identified in the sector following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, regarding the safety and quality of social housing and how tenants are treated by landlords.
The Act aims to remedy the following areas:
- Improving landlord accountability and quality of homes through improved oversight and penalties for non-compliance. The Act acknowledges that too many social housing tenants have suffered from unsafe, uninhabitable housing conditions.
- Promoting dignity and quality of life for social housing residents across the country by introducing standards and urgent response requirements when hazards are identified.
- Altering tenant relationships with landlords and empowering residents by providing them with a voice, improving access and resetting the power balance.
The extensive scope of the Act represents a major step forward in addressing interrelated challenges surrounding landlord conduct, property conditions, and tenant treatment within the social housing sector.
Introducing Awaab’s Law
One of the most prominent features of the new Social Housing (Regulation) Act follows the tragic death of Awaab Ishak in 2020. Awaab’s Law aims to prevent future deaths by making sure all health and safety risks are swiftly remedied by social landlords.
Awaab’s Law specifies that landlords must fix any reported hazards related to health or safety, such as damp, mould, electrical issues and gas leaks within a strict time limit. This will legally require landlords to take immediate action to resolve hazardous issues identified by tenants or inspectors.
Making Improvements in Home Safety
In addition to the rapid response required through Awaab’s Law, the wider Social Housing (Regulation) Act contains several revisions directly focused on improving living conditions and safety for social housing occupants:
- The enhanced regulation promotes urgent repairs to mitigate risks where dangerous conditions are identified through complaint or inspection. Tenants will no longer have to live in hazardous conditions while waiting for landlords to act.
- Stringent time limits for addressing property defects will facilitate swifter resolution of safety issues such as faulty wiring, crumbling walls and ceilings, infestations and trip hazards that may cause injury.
- The rule to enter properties with only 48-hour notice will allow the Regulator to rapidly identify and enforce immediate remediation of safety hazards for tenants.
- Overall requirements for improved property conditions will ensure that landlords address problems like cold, damp, mould and other hazards that create unsafe and unsanitary living conditions.
With the various improvements focusing on the safety of social housing tenants, the Act will fundamentally improve living conditions for millions of social housing tenants who have waited too long for health hazards to be addressed.
Keeping Social Housing Tenants Safe
The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 represents a long-awaited reform that will empower tenants, improve accountability and transform living conditions for the better. With expanded oversight power, stiffer penalties for landlords, encouraged tenant voice, and improved response times for hazards, the Act provides a foundation for systemic improvement across the sector.
The Act signifies a major step in the right direction for the government’s promise to improve living and ensure social housing tenants access the secure, high-quality housing they deserve.