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December 1, 2020

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Housing safety

Social housing white paper published

Major reforms to support housing tenants in England and ensure landlords raise standards where needed have been announced.

The social housing white paper – ‘The Charter for Social Housing Residents’, sets out reforms that will speed up the complaints procedure for residents by improving access to the Housing Ombudsman, reducing decision times and ensuring effective resolution.

The Charter will also make landlords more accountable for the services they deliver, including access to a new information scheme for tenants of housing associations and introducing a set of tenant satisfaction measures that landlords will have to report against.

The social housing white paper delivers on the government’s manifesto pledge to provide greater redress, better regulation and improve the quality of social housing.

The Charter sets out what every social housing resident should expect from their landlord:

  1. To be safe in your home. We will work with industry and landlords to ensure every home is safe and secure.
  2. To know how your landlord is performing, including on repairs, complaints and safety, and how it spends its money, so you can hold it to account.
  3. To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly, with access to a strong Ombudsman who will give you swift and fair redress when needed.
  4. To be treated with respect, backed by a strong consumer regulator and improved consumer standards for tenants.
  5. To have your voice heard by your landlord, for example through regular meetings, scrutiny panels or being on its Board. The government will provide help, if you want it, to give you the tools to ensure your landlord listens.
  6. To have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in, with your landlord keeping your home in good repair.
  7. To be supported to take your first step to ownership, so it is a ladder to other opportunities, should your circumstances allow.

The government is reforming the Regulator of Social Housing and Housing Ombudsman service to drive the culture change required, backed by legislation where needed.

‘Technology can shoulder some of the responsibility’

The move has been welcomed by James King, Connected Homes Director of fire safety technology experts FireAngel. He said: “We’re at a stage where technology can shoulder some of the responsibility of fire safety, and housing providers, fire services and regulators can use it to protect tenants and homes more effectively.

“Since the Grenfell tragedy, the relationship between the Fire Rescue Service and social landlords has strengthened and there is huge interest on both sides in how connected technology can provide real-time information, assess risk and engage with tenants to ensure they are and feel safe. With the right technologies, fire prevention and response can become easier, more effective and more proactive.

“By introducing connected technologies such as IoT and AI, social landlords can create serious efficiencies and relieve some of the burden of fire prevention, and can also make life safer and easier for their tenants. Post-Grenfell, more than 400 ‘waking watches’ were established around the country to monitor buildings. However, they’re expensive and only designed to work as an interim measure; relying on humans for fire prevention shouldn’t be the only intervention and it certainly isn’t sustainable long term. With remote monitoring and cloud connectivity of smoke detectors, social landlords can streamline fire prevention, as it creates an opportunity for centralised, off-site monitoring so that multiple sites can be managed from a single place.

“From the fire services’ perspective, connected technology and remote monitoring enable them to assess data relating to, not only the condition of the building materials, but also vulnerable tenants, managing and preventing risks. From a tenant’s perspective, digitisation means they can be informed on the state of the safety system within their own homes and they can report concerns and engage with social landlords easily. Connected technology enables the fire service to not only to monitor but to prevent risk, before it becomes a 999 call.”

The White Paper is available here.

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