Regulator plans to axe landlords' right to appeal
The social housing regulator is planning to scrap landlords’ right to appeal against its most serious decisions - forcing any challenges to the High Court.
Under the move, disgruntled landlords would be left without any ability to question major decisions such as orders to transfer land or management of stock, forced mergers and the suspension of officers following a statutory inquiry.
The Tenant Services Authority, in a board meeting last Wednesday, agreed to recommend that its internal appeals process be scrapped for such ‘heavyweight’ decisions. This would mean that in future landlords would only be able to challenge major decisions by launching costly and time-consuming High Court proceedings.
The recommendation will go to the new Homes and Communities Agency regulation committee, which takes over regulatory duties from the TSA after it is abolished on 31 March.
At present, the most serious decisions are taken by a sub-committee of the TSA board with an appeal to the full board if necessary.
Claer Lloyd Jones, chief executive of the TSA, admitted: ‘It is quite difficult presentationally for it not to appear as though we are removing rights from those who feel the decisions that we have made are the wrong decisions.’
In a report to its board, the TSA describes its current internal appeals procedure as ‘a less formal low-cost alternative’ to court proceedings.
However, it argues the process will not be practical for the smaller HCA committee, which will have six members compared with the TSA board’s nine, to operate in the same way.
Ms Lloyd Jones said it would therefore be important to engage with landlords throughout the decision making process so decisions were considered fair.
Following lobbying from the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations, the regulator has also recommended that the HCA committee consider how to allow an independent ‘element’ to check the process but not the substance of a decision.
Julian Ashby, deputy chairman of the TSA and chair of the new HCA committee, pointed out that no decisions have been taken in the serious category in the past three years.
However, Keith Exford, chair of the G15, said that court action was ‘quite adversarial’.
Greg Campbell, director of housing consultancy Campbell Tickell, said: ‘It’s a bad idea in principle - it’s sending out a bad message because the organisations that the TSA are regulating have to have internal appeals processes that customers can make use of.’