Social housing regulator issues councils with safety notice after Home Standard violations

England’s Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has written to all councils that own housing stock reminding them of their responsibilities under the regulatory standards for tenants’ safety and health.
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The letter, sent to council chief executives on 17 May, comes after two local authorities were found to have breached the Home Standard, which requires social housing providers to “meet all applicable statutory requirements that provide for the health and safety of the occupants in their homes”. 
Last month the RSH issued Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council with a regulatory notice over fire, asbestos and electrical safety issues. Last August, a notice was handed to Arun District Council over its failure to assess fire and legionella risks in properties it was responsible for maintaining.
The letter, signed by Fiona McGregor, the regulator’s chief executive, stressed: “While the regulator’s governance and financial viability and value for money standards do not apply to local authorities, the consumer standards do apply.
“That obligation remains with the local authority where it is the stock-owning body, even if the management has been contracted to another body such as an ALMO [arm’s length management organisation].” 
It also refers to a memo sent by the regulator in June 2017 after the Grenfell Tower fire, reminding all social housing providers that “boards and councillors must ensure that they have proper oversight of all health and safety issues (including gas safety, fire safety asbestos and legionella)”. 
“Contracting out delivery of services does not contractor out responsibility to meet the requirements of legislation or standards, so providers need systems to give boards assurance of compliance,” it warned. 
Last week’s letter said: “This is a reminder to local authorities that the consumer standards apply to them and that while we currently only consider information that is referred to us, this does not diminish the obligation on local authorities to comply with the standards. 
“Currently, legislation only permits us to take enforcement action where there has been a breach of a consumer standard, and that breach has, or could, cause serious detriment to current or future tenants. As can be seen from our various Consumer Regulation Reviewpublications, we most commonly find breach and serious detriment in relation to the Home Standard.
“You may wish to seek your own assurance that your authority is complying with the consumer standards.”