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Fines and intervention: housing regulator powers to be extended

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The social housing regulator would have greater powers to fine councils and intervene in their management arrangements, under proposals outlined in the social housing green paper today.

Among a series of measures aimed at giving the regulator “sharper teeth”, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said it will seek to ensure the same minimum housing standards apply to both council and housing association tenants.

The social housing regulator, which is set to become a separate non-departmental body, does not currently have the powers to issue fines to councils or assess governance arrangements if failings are identified.

“The government respects the democratic mandate of local authorities but this must be balanced with the need to ensure that residents are protected,” the green paper said.

As part of the review of the regulator’s role, the government will consider whether to extend its remit to tenant management organisations and arms-length management organisations, with councils held responsible for poor performance.

The green paper added: “There is a further question about whether more is needed to set out the accountability of the landlord for management services that are outsourced, or whether the regulator should have direct oversight of how these management organisations operate.”

The government is also proposing to publish league tables on all social landlords’ performance, based on a series of indicators set by the regulator. These could focus on repairs, safety, complaint handling, effective engagement and neighbourhood management, including the response to anti-social behaviour.

The green paper also suggested financial incentives and penalties could be introduced to drive up standards, with a proposal for the performance indicators to inform decisions on allocations through the affordable homes programme.

The government said it will review the minimum levels of service that the regulator currently requires landlords to deliver, potentially to include how complaints are handled.

The green paper also said the high “serious detriment” threshold for intervention by the regulator could be removed for a breach of standards to enable it to take “a more rigorous and proactive approach to enforcement, like other regulators such as Ofsted”.

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