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The Social Housing (Regulation) Bill [HL] (Bill 177 of 2022-23) received its first reading in the House of Commons on 31 October 2022. Second reading is scheduled for 7 November 2022.

What does the Bill aim to do?

The Bill provides the legal basis for many of the measures set out in the 2020 social housing white paper. The paper intended to deliver “transformational change” for social housing residents and fulfil the Government’s 2019 manifesto pledge, to empower residents, provide greater redress, better regulation and improve the quality of social housing.

With the Bill, the Government intends to strengthen the regulatory regime to change the behaviour of landlords of social housing to focus on the needs of their tenants. It also aims to ensure landlords are held to account for their performance.

The core objectives of the Bill are to:

Facilitate a new, proactive consumer regulation regime

Key provisions include:

  • making safety, transparency and energy efficiency part of the Social Housing Regulator’s fundamental objectives.
  • enabling the Regulator to set standards for the competence and conduct of staff working for registered providers of social housing.
  • requiring registered providers to nominate a designated person for health and safety issues.
  • giving the Secretary of State the power to introduce new requirements for registered providers relating to electrical safety checks.
  • a power for the Regulator to direct registered providers to collect and publish performance information.
  • regular inspections of registered providers.

Refine the existing economic regulatory regime

This would ensure providers are well governed and financially viable to protect homes and investment in new supply. Key provisions include:

  • ensuring the Regulator has a clear understanding of a registered provider’s corporate structure and any changes that could influence how it operates.
  • broadening the Regulator’s power to require people to provide documents or information for regulatory purposes.

Strengthen the Regulator’s powers to enforce the consumer and economic regimes

This would ensure the Regulator can effectively intervene when required. Key provisions include:

  • removing the ‘serious detriment’ test, which is a legislative barrier to the Regulator’s action on consumer issues.
  • giving the Regulator the power to require a registered provider to prepare and implement a performance improvement plan.
  • removing the cap on the level of fines the Regulator can issue.

The Bill also contains provisions to empower the Housing Ombudsman to issue a code of practice on complaint handling and monitor compliance with the code; and to formalise and strengthen the relationship between the Regulator and the Housing Ombudsman.

Content and extent of the Bill

The Bill as brought from the House of Lords on 31 October 2022 comprises 44 clauses and five schedules.

The majority of the Bill’s clauses amend Part 2 of the Housing and Regeneration Act (HRA) 2008 (as amended) which sets out the framework for the regulation of social housing in England.

The Bill, together with its explanatory notes (which provide a clause-by-clause explanation of the Bill), impact assessment, delegated powers memorandum and an overview of its parliamentary progress, is available on the Parliament Bill webpage.

Housing is an area of devolved legislative competence in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Bill primarily extends and applies to England and Wales (to the extent that social housing providers in England hold housing stock in Wales) – legislative consent is being sought from Senedd Cymru.

Reaction to the Bill

The Bill has been broadly welcomed by both social housing providers and organisations representing social housing tenants.

The chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), Gavin Smart, welcomed the Bill which he considered “provides the foundation we have been calling for, giving tenants’ a greater voice and improving access to redress.”

He said the provisions in the Bill would help to accelerate the work many social housing providers had already taken to strengthen relationships between residents and landlords and to address quality issues. The National Housing Federation, the member body for housing associations, also supports the Bill.  

London Councils welcomed the Bill, but raised concerns that on-going funding pressures would make it harder to achieve the improvements tenants, social landlords, and the Government wanted to see.

The Local Government Association (LGA) welcomed measures to strengthen the Regulator’s powers, although it considered that: “Social housing landlords should be allowed to, and be supported to, manage their own journey on continuous improvement, with the Regulator’s activity prioritising intervention with landlords that are experiencing the most severe challenges.”

Grenfell United, representing survivors and bereaved families from the Grenfell Tower fire, and the housing charity Shelter strongly welcomed the Bill, which they considered represented “a real opportunity to provide fairness and accountability for people living in social housing.”

Consideration in the House of Lords

The Social Housing (Regulation) Bill (HL Bill 21 of 2022-23) was introduced in the House of Lords on 8 June 2022.

It received its second reading on 27 June 2022. Members from across the House welcomed the Bill. They also paid tribute to Grenfell United, survivors and bereaved families from the Grenfell Tower fire, who have campaigned tirelessly for everyone to live in a safe home and for social housing tenants to be treated with dignity and respect.

The Bill was considered in Grand Committee on 6 September 2022. There were 65 amendments to the Bill tabled at committee stage, of which: 42 were agreed; four were withdrawn and 19 were not moved. All agreed amendments were minor or technical Government amendments.

Report stage took place on 18 October 2022. There were 39 amendments tabled, of which: 34 were agreed, one was disagreed, one was withdrawn and three were not moved. There were two divisions. Most of the agreed amendments were minor or technical Government amendments. Several substantive amendments were agreed, including those to:

  • add energy efficiency to the Regulator’s fundamental objectives;
  • give the Regulator the power to set standards relating to the competence and conduct of staff working in social housing;
  • give the Regulator the power to set standards relating to energy efficiency; and
  • impose a duty on the Regulator to produce, publish and implement a plan relating to the carrying out of both regular and one-off inspections of registered providers.

The Bill received its third reading on 31 October 2022.

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