The housing regulator has told housing associations to “sort the problem” with fire safety after it wrote to the whole sector warning that “contracting out delivery of services does not contract out responsibility”.
Speaking at Housing 2017 on Wednesday, Jonathan Walters, deputy director of regulation at the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), said: “The key message for the regulator to all organisations is sort the problem. If you have a problem that looks similar to Grenfell you need to sort that.”
The sector is battling a mounting crisis over fire safety, with all 120 composite panels tested having failed government tests on combustibility as Inside Housing went to press.
Mr Walters also stated that “the most recent election result and the tragic events of the past few weeks will shape what the government wants from the sector”.
Key questions that will be asked of social landlords will be “what are you doing in response to Grenfell?” and “how sure are you about the safety of your blocks [of flats]?” he added.
“I think you can expect to find a light shone on that,” he said.
Fiona MacGregor, director of regulation at the HCA, wrote to housing associations last week “to remind you of your obligation as a registered provider to comply with all relevant legislation”.
The letter added: “Meeting health and safety obligations is a primary responsibility for registered providers. Boards and councillors must ensure that they have proper oversight of all health and safety issues (including gas safety, fire safety, asbestos and legionella).”
It continued: “Contracting out delivery of services does not contract out responsibility to meet the requirements of legislation or standards, so providers need systems to give boards assurance of compliance.”
Speaking at a later session, Ms MacGregor told delegates the regulator expects to be kept informed if a landlord thinks it has a problem with fire safety.
She said: “We’ve made it clear that you don’t need to respond to us if everything is OK, however if you do think you have an issue and you think you might not be compliant with the standards, then let us know.
“That should not stand in the way of putting right any problems you have identified – that’s the priority.”
Mr Walters added that some organisations may find additional maintenance spend “more difficult to achieve within their business plan parameters than others”.