Social Housing Regulation Bill Aims to Improve Failing Housing Standards

Social Housing Regulation Bill Aims to Improve Areas Like Sothwark Council
LPC & GDL Matthew Shiels
Written by: Jessica Lee Legally reviewed by: LPC & GDL Matthew Shiels Updated: In: Housing Disrepair

With the new law being put through parliament, councils like Southwark could be hit with fines for failing to carry out proper repairs on their homes.  The new social housing regulation bill aims to improve the state of social housing across the UK.

The Social Housing Regulation Bill

The new social housing regulation bill aims to significantly reduce the number of social houses in disrepair by improving social housing conditions. The bill aims to cut the amount of time the councils are given before inspection, from 28 days to 48 hours. The bill also pushes for emergency repairs, with the councils footing the bill.

The new rules still have to be voted through parliament, but if they pass, they will apply to housing associations.

The London Councils, that represent the local authorities in the capital, welcomes the bill but stated they would need more money from the central government to keep up the standards of their housing stock.

Southwark Council Reflecting a Bigger Issue

Southwark Council is the biggest social landlord in London and one of the biggest in the UK, with about 55,000 homes. In the past year, tenants have reported the need for repairs in their homes more than 150,000 times. This figure is almost equivalent to three complaints per household. Despite previous years showing even steeper figures, with 2010-2011 having 219,000 requests for repairs, the numbers are still worryingly high. Damp complaints stayed on average flat over the period with about 1,2000 per year.

The council has spent roughly £30 million per year on repairs over the period from 2010 to 2021 and has committed another £400 million over the next four years.

Council leader Kieron Williams said that 18% of Southwark’s housing was in a state of disrepair when Labour came to power in 2010, but that 98% of the homes the council now owns now meet the governments ‘decent homes standard’.

Despite these figures perhaps indicating slight improvements, an increasing amount of Social Housing tenants are coming forward with their housing disrepair problems. Frequent issues of dampness, mold, leaks, rats and other vermin have not been dealt with for weeks or months on end, sometimes spanning to years.

Providing a Voice for Tenants – Kwajo’s Story 

After experiencing first-hand the social housing disrepair crisis, Kwajo Tweneboa stepped up to be the voice for housing tenants struggling with inhabitable homes. Kwajo lived in Eastfields Estate in South London in a complex built in the 1970s. Unfortunately, in recent years Eastfields has become notorious for its poor housing standards. When Kwajo voiced the issues that his family had with their social housing no one came to fix the issues.

Among multiple other housing disrepair issues Kwajo’s ceiling caved in in February 2020, and it took until January 2021 to be fixed. Kwajo states that “All this was going on around my father as he died.” Kwajo firmly believed that these conditions worsened his father’s condition.

After a phone call with a Clarion employee who stated that they were not coming to fix the problem, Kwajo decided it was time to take action.

Knowing that hundreds of thousands of other people were in the same situation as himself, Kwajo took to social media to share his story and images of the housing disrepair in Eastfields. His story provided a voice for those in similar situations. The story was shared thousands of times and reached mainstream platforms like the BBC and ITV.

Read more about Kwajo’s story here.

A Rise in Social Housing Disrepair Claims

There has been a big rise in housing disrepair claims brought against the social housing providers by their tenants; the number of cases has increased by132% in recent years.

Many social housing renters face the same struggles as Kwajo. 13% of homes in the social housing rented sector fail to meet the Decent Homes Standard. There are around 4.4 million social homes in England. With 13% not meeting the Decent Homes Standard, this means 572,000 homes are substandard.

Since Kwajo’s shared his story and started sharing the voices of those in similar situations, changes have started to happen. Clarion state they have now completed more than 600 repairs since June 2021. Additionally, they state they’ve completed kitchen and bathroom replacements at 30 properties.  Clarion also informed that they upgraded their roof system to prevent leaks.

Sadly, stories like that of Eastfields and Southwark highlight what is a UK-wide problem. It is all too common now for social housing tenant’s repair requests to be ignored for months on end. In October 2021, the housing Ombudsman created a report on dampness and mold in socially rented properties. The report found evidence of “maladministration” among 56% of the 142 landlords investigated over a two-year period. This figure rises to 64% for complaint handling alone. The report highlights that the failure rate was often a result of inaction, excessive delays, or poor communication.

Social housing tenants are hoping that the new social housing regulation bill will result in better housing standards.

Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, Housing and Planning States:

“Boroughs want the best for our residents living in social housing. Stronger powers for the Regulator of Social Housing and the other measures set out in this Bill will undoubtedly help raise standards and be welcomed by tenants across the capital.

“However, Ofsted-style inspections and new rights for tenants can only be part of the solution. Improving social housing standards also requires investing extra resources. We can’t lose sight of the fact London is grappling with the worst housing and homelessness pressures in the country”.

Comments on the Social Housing Disrepair Bill from Housing Minister Michael Gove 

“In 2022, it is disgraceful that anyone should live in damp, cold, and unsafe homes, waiting months for repairs and being routinely ignored by their landlord.

“These new laws will end this injustice and ensure the regulator has strong new powers to take on rogue social landlords.”

“We are driving up the standards of social housing and giving residents a voice to make sure they get the homes they deserve. That is levelling up in action.”

A Promise of Social Housing Improvements

Alongside the new bill, a 250-person panel of social housing tenants will be created. The panel will directly report to the national government every four months. People will also be able to get more information from housing associations about their operations. This will opperate in a similar way to how Freedom of Information requests work. Meanwhile, social housing tenants will also be able to rate their landlords.

Make a Social Housing Disrepair Claim with Help from Our Housing Disrepair Solicitors

Do you live in social housing and your home is in a state of disrepair? Our housing disrepair solicitors can help you claim for the social landlord to carry out necessary repairs. We can also help you claim compensation for physical or financial problems you have suffered as a result.

If your housing disrepair request has been neglected, our housing disrepair claims solicitors can help you claim for the repairs to be carried out. In addition, we can help you claim compensation for damage to your possessions, illness, and injury.

Our solicitors have found landlords can often ill-treat and misinform tenants of their rights. Therefore, our housing disrepair solicitors do more than just help you make a housing health claim. They can guide and support you when you have suffered and get you the justice you deserve. The solicitor’s regulation authority regulates our housing disrepair solicitors. Our housing disrepair solicitors will provide you with a free assessment. During the assessment, our solicitors can determine if we can take on your no-win, no-fee basis claim.

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