Update from the regulator on coronavirus

The Regulator of Social Housing has clarified its regulatory approach in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The regulator wrote to all social housing providers on Thursday to recognise the significant operational pressures they are facing, clarify its expectations and update on its approach.

The update aims to ‘support providers in focusing on front-line operations and to identify where there may be challenges that the sector or individual providers need regulatory support to meet.’

Expectations of social housing providers

Tenant safety is the shared priority across the sector. The regulator says that ‘this includes addressing emergency and urgent repairs and statutory compliance with health and safety requirements’.

It says that social housing providers should promptly report any concerns about non-compliance with health and safety standards, significant service delivery risks to vulnerable tenants, or financial viability.

In particular, they should report if:

  • They are unable to deliver a minimum service to tenants either as a result of access issues or a shortage of staff.
  • They experience a shortage of staff which means that safe levels of staffing cannot be maintained in care, supported or vulnerable people’s accommodation
  • They identify any danger to tenants that cannot be rectified within reasonable timescales.

Social housing providers should also manage risks to staff safety and follow wider guidance on limiting the spread of coronavirus.

Gas safety checks

In addition to the general guidance from the regulator, the Health and Safety Executive has provided advice to landlords about carrying out gas safety checks if they cannot gain access to a property or contract a gas safety engineer due to coronavirus.

Changes to the regulator’s approach

During the crisis, the regulator says it is working to reduce the regulatory burden and refocus regulation on the key risks by:

  • being proportionate and taking full account of the circumstances when responding to compliance issues
  • collecting some information from providers about risks affecting tenant safety
  • Pausing In-Depth Assessments
  • Postponing submission deadlines for the Statistical Data Return, Local Authority Data Return and Financial Forecast Return

It will continue to collect the Quarterly Survey so it can monitor sales, liquidity and cashflow pressures. Some providers who face higher risks to their finances will be asked share their own cashflow monitoring information.

The regulator commits to increasing engagement with providers and other stakeholders.

Next steps

The NHF is working with the regulator to set up regular webinars so that members can ask questions and share latest issues on all these issues. In the meantime, we’re asking members to share any immediate issues or concerns with us directly.