Late last month, the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) opened the consumer standards consultation. The outcome of the consultation will form the foundation of the new regulatory regime for social housing, with four new consumer Standards that registered providers (RPs) will be expected to meet from April 2024, proposed. You can read more about the consultation in our colleague, Sarah Patrice’s blog here.
For us what stood out was the proposed Safety and Quality Standard, and particularly the required outcome relating to health and safety – When acting as landlords, RPs must take all reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of tenants in their homes and associated communal areas. To meet this required outcome, RSH has proposed it will set the below specific expectations.
- RPs must identify and meet all legal requirements that relate to the health and safety of tenants in their homes and communal areas.
- RPs must ensure all required action from legally required health and safety assessments are carried out within appropriate timescales.
- RPs must ensure the safety of tenants is considered in the design and delivery of landlord services and take reasonable steps to mitigate any identified risks to tenants.
RSH’s proposals appear in line with what we are seeing from other safety regulators; the expectation is that safety should be considered holistically (rather than in silos of gas safety, electrical safety etc). The phrasing of the outcome is akin to the overarching, general obligations RPs hold under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – to ensure so far as reasonably practicable the health and safety of those affected by their operations.
Many regulatory judgments in the last year or so have related to RPs failing to carry out the actions required by their safety assessments in line with the timescales prescribed in those assessments. With these new proposals, RSH has left RPs in no doubt as to what it expects (and indeed, it is what the underlying safety legislation requires also).
Whilst of course, these proposals are still subject to consultation, we now have a clear insight into RSH’s future intentions in regulating tenant safety. With the removal of the serious detriment test likely increasing the need for referrals in this area, the enhancement of RSH’s enforcement powers, and the introduction of proactive inspections, RPs should act now to ensure they are prepared to comply with the standard, but also that they are in a position to demonstrate compliance where needed.
For advice on health and safety in housing, please contact a member of the regulatory team.