SOCIAL landlords are failing tenants when it comes to fixing potentially serious problems affecting their homes, says Shelter.
The charity is calling on the Government to toughen up regulation of the sector not only to improve tenant safety but also serve to restore trust.
In a YouGov survey carried out for Shelter, it was found that 56% of social renters in England — around five million people — have experienced a problem with their home in the last three years. These have included electrical hazards, gas leaks and faulty lifts, it says.
However, some of the tenants surveyed reported that getting such issues fixed wasn’t a straightforward matter. According to Shelter one in 10 had to report the problem more than 10 times before any action was taken.
Furthermore, the survey found that over the same period, more than 400,000 people encountered an issue with fire safety, which also affected their neighbours in over two fifths of cases.
Two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, Shelter is saying this isn’t good enough. The charity has teamed up with Grenfell United to demand the Government do more to ensure social tenants can feel safe — and listened to — in their own homes.
Though the Government is proposing a new building safety regulator, Shelter says it does not go far enough. It is calling for the introduction of a “tough” consumer regulator to protect tenants and “proactively” inspect social landlords.
The current regulator of social housing exists mainly to oversee finances and is not exclusively focused on the concerns of residents, so tenants need an independent body to fight their corner, Shelter says.
“Social tenants living in Grenfell Tower raised serious safety concerns before the fire, but they were ignored. Two years on, social renters are still being failed by poor regulation and people are still fighting to be heard,” said Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive.
“In the wake of food scandals and financial scandals, the Government responded with new regulators to protect consumers, and that’s exactly what we need for social housing. It cannot be right that scores of complaints and problems that affect whole blocks of flats, like faulty lifts or gas leaks, go unheard. We need a new regulator that’s firmly on the side of tenants.
“Tinkering with the current system just isn’t good enough when people have lost trust in it to keep them safe. That’s why we stand with Grenfell United in calling on the Government to establish a new consumer regulator, which inspects social landlords and listens to groups of tenants when they say something isn’t right.”
Natasha Elcock, chair of Grenfell United, the bereaved families and survivors’ group, added: “People were raising the alarm about fire safety in Grenfell before the fire, but they were ignored and belittled. The current housing regulator did nothing for us, it was entirely invisible. And two years later, despite all the promises, we still hear from people across the country who are not being listened to about their homes.
“If we want to stop another Grenfell fire, we need serious change – change that will genuinely make a difference to people living in social housing. We need a new system, not a rebrand of the current one. The government introduced a new regime for the banking industry after the financial crash, it should be doing the same for the housing sector. After all, what could be more important than people’s homes.”
The research for Shelter also revealed a deep mistrust in the Government since the Grenfell Tower fire, with half saying they have less trust in the Government to keep social tenants safe in their homes.
Another third said that the Government’s response to the tragedy has made no difference to their sense of trust.
An independent consume regulator, Shelters argues, would also serve to rebuild this loss of faith in government.