2022 Set to be a Year of Standards, Service and Satisfaction

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Housing quality standards is a topic of recurring importance for the social housing sector. In many senses, it’s a theme that could feature in almost any annual consideration about the challenges and opportunities of the year ahead.

Next year, however, will elevate quality standards to another level, as the effectiveness of existing regulation is considered, and new proposals are legislated. Proactive risk management will be increasingly crucial to the operating strategies and governance of housing associations.

A milestone year

Although it’s around 12 months since the Social Housing White Paper was published (November 2020), its outline proposals are yet to be progressed. This is likely to change in 2022, with the year proving something of a milestone for the Government’s ambitions to strengthen how satisfied tenants are with their homes and landlords.

We can expect to see the remit of the Regulator of Social Housing expanded, as new consumer regulation is developed. Focus will be placed on enhancing the safety of homes and standards of maintenance services provided by registered providers. Measuring quality though will go beyond bricks and mortar and physical repairs. It will also consider whether residents have been treated fairly and with respect. Tenant-satisfaction will really define the success of compliance next year and the beginning of a new era of accountability for landlord organisations.

 

Assessing accountability

The legislation of Social Housing White Paper proposals will come against a backdrop of growing questions and concerns about quality standards. The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee (LUHC) will put conditions within social housing under the microscope, which will include examination of how fit for purpose the Regulator of Social Housing and the Housing Ombudsman are. Do they have the abilities and processes to properly identify problems and address issues?

Arguably, much of the Select Committee’s inquiry mirrors the concerns that underpin the Social Housing White Paper and the driving ambition for more tenant-focused standards. The timeliness of the inquiry is therefore debatable: is it more beneficial that it takes place now or at a later date once White Paper proposals have been legislated and the impact of changes can be better considered? Either way, it’s another development in social housing that’s being driven by quality standards, and again highlights the growing importance of this for housing associations next year.

 

Private sector influence

Another factor that has the potential to elevate quality standards in 2022 is the emergence of super-sized buy-to-let landlords.

Recent months have seen Lloyds Banking Group move into the buy-to-let market. This could lead to it becoming Britain’s largest private landlord, and although assumptions are that the bank will initially target returns through private rentals and build-to-rent models, there’s significant opportunity for joint ventures with registered providers of social housing.

Growing demand for affordable homes increases the viability of partnerships between property and housing organisations in the public and private sectors. Such ventures aren’t new but large corporates entering the market could influence change. The build-to-rent market, for example, is often associated with no hidden costs, added value services and generally higher quality service delivery. New landlord organisations may set higher tenant-focused benchmarks.

There are many matters influencing the growing prominence of quality standards for registered providers of social housing. This will demand greater due diligence and governance, especially in terms of how tenants are treated. Documenting levels of tenant-satisfaction and evidencing that every possible step has been taken, not only to address tenant complaints, but also to enable any concerns to be raised simply and easily by renters, will be critical to compliance.

Changes will present new complexities, for which Forbes Solicitors’ 70 strong Housing Group is well prepared. We offer clients a rich mix of Housing & Regeneration sector experience, the full range of property and litigation services, along with procurement, governance, information and employment law. It ensures we can provide seamless advice and timely solutions to support housing associations in maintaining their focus on quality standards.

Forbes Solicitors is an award-winning law firm, with 11 offices across England that looks after the interests of clients nationwide.

 

The firm has more than 40 partners and an overall headcount of nearly 400, advising on a wide range of commercial and personal matters. Forbes specialises in supporting SMEs, providing legal expertise in practice areas including litigation, commercial, corporate legal services, employment, insurance, commercial property and individual services.

 

Forbes holds the ISO9001 Quality Certification and in its recent assessment it was described as “exceptional”. The firm is ranked as a Legal 500 Top Tier Firm and a Chambers and Partners Leading Firm, receiving 70 nominations in the latest editions. Furthermore, a number of its partners are included in the elite “Leading Individuals” list, the “Next Generation Lawyers” list, and 41 of Forbes’ solicitors are listed as recommended lawyers. Forbes is also a member of LawPact® – the international association of independent business law firms – which supports the expansion of its national and global reach.

 

Forbes Solicitors is an award-winning law firm, with 11 offices across England that looks after the interests of clients nationwide.

The firm has more than 40 partners and an overall headcount of nearly 400, advising on a wide range of commercial and personal matters. Forbes specialises in supporting SMEs, providing legal expertise in practice areas including litigation, commercial, corporate legal services, employment, insurance, commercial property and individual services.

Forbes holds the ISO9001 Quality Certification and in its recent assessment it was described as “exceptional”. The firm is ranked as a Legal 500 Top Tier Firm and a Chambers and Partners Leading Firm, receiving 70 nominations in the latest editions. Furthermore, a number of its partners are included in the elite “Leading Individuals” list, the “Next Generation Lawyers” list, and 41 of Forbes’ solicitors are listed as recommended lawyers. Forbes is also a member of LawPact® – the international association of independent business law firms – which supports the expansion of its national and global reach.

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