The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has published non-statutory guidance for social housing providers on how to effectively enforce standards in rented properties. This includes how to meet their legal duties and support tenants during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The guidance recognises that during the current time it may be harder for social housing providers to carry out their usual work. Inspecting properties and taking enforcement action may be affected by issues around resources or tenants maintaining strict separation.
As a result, the guidance provides recommendations in the following key areas which we have summarised below:
- How to enforce standards in rented properties
The guidance recommends that enforcement policies are up-to-date and take into account the current situation, addressing the possibility of not being able to access a property and considering what a reasonable response would be in that scenario. All work carried out should be done so in line with social housing providers’ own health & safety policies and all decisions based on an assessment of risk.
- Inspections and investigations
During the current period, it is recommended that social housing providers update their health & safety policies to cover their officers carrying out inspections and visits during this period. Critically, legal duties remain the same during this time but if you believe you may not be able to remain compliant, you should seek independent legal advice.
- Enforcement action
During this unprecedented time, social housing providers should only take enforcement action that they determine is necessary and in accordance with their updated enforcement policies.
- Proactive and reactive work
Social housing providers should consider suspending all non-urgent proactive work where there is not a duty to carry it out, and instead, reactive work should be prioritised. The guidance suggests using a triage system to help ensure that the most serious risks are prioritised and vulnerable tenants protected.
- Support for tenants
During this time, social housing providers should use communications and marketing to emphasise the importance of keeping properties free from hazardous conditions and also to reassure tenants about the approach being taken regarding enforcement decisions.
- Electrical and gas safety
Social landlords should continue to ensure that safety standards are met and therefore should be able to show that all reasonable steps have been taken to comply with regulations to ensure they are not in breach of the duty.
Whilst the above guidance is not statutory guidance, it is intended to provide a recommended approach for social housing providers to follow during the present time.
A full version of the guidance can be found here and we suggest you continue to revisit this link regularly as we expect this guidance will continue to evolve.