New rules are being used to force through tenant cashback policy, say associations
Regulations promote controversial repairs scheme
Landlords have accused the government of using new regulations to implement a controversial housing policy through the back door.
The Tenant Services Authority last Monday launched a consultation on its new regulatory framework for social landlords. The Communities and Local Government department directed the regulator to set some of the new standards.
Among these was a requirement to ensure tenants are allowed to be involved in the management of repairs and maintenance services, which could include tenants carrying out or commissioning their own repairs.
The standard is being amended to promote the tenant cashback model announced by housing minister Grant Shapps in April, which allows tenants to carry out their own repairs and take a share in financial savings made.
It has prompted fears among landlords about the impact the policy could have on their independence, the health and safety of their tenants, value for money and stock quality.
John Bryant, policy leader at the National Housing Federation, accused the housing minister of ‘policy passporting’ - using regulations to achieve policy objectives.
He said: ‘Regulation should not be about achieving policy objectives. This level of micromanagement is unhelpful.’
Another standard specifies that landlords allow tenants to use ‘internet-based services’ to exchange tenancies. This is unpopular with the NHF because it specifies how landlords set up mutual exchange schemes.
Referring to tenant cashback, Keith Exford, chief executive of 56,000-home Affinity Sutton and chair of the G15 group of housing associations in London, said: ‘This is classic policy passporting. There is no legislative basis for this to be placed on housing associations.’
Mr Exford said Affinity Sutton would not comply with the rule unless explicitly required to by legislation. He added that it could be possible to legally challenge the regulations. ‘These are our properties and we are responsible for managing them,’ he added.
Ian Graham, partner at law firm Trowers & Hamlins, said that while the wording of the Housing Act had a broad meaning, he does not think there is a clear argument for saying the TSA can’t enforce the standards.
A CLG spokesperson said: ‘Far from being prescriptive, the rules on tenant cashback give landlords the widest possible scope to take account of their local circumstances when implementing the scheme.’