To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that transparency and accountability measures apply to housing association service charges.
To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that tenants renting housing association properties receive value for money.
To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, if his Department will review the composition of housing association charges to ensure the equity of those charges for tenants.
To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, whether his Department is taking steps to encourage housing associations to increase their engagement with tenants.
To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, if his Department will review housing associations’ compliance with existing legislation.
The Government believes very strongly that service charges should be transparent and communicated effectively. The way a service charge is organised (for example, what it covers and how it is worked out) is set out in the lease or tenancy agreement. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 is clear that variable service charges, including any increase in costs, must be reasonable, and where costs relate to work or services, the work or services must be of a reasonable standard. This applies equally to social housing residents and tenants. Leaseholders and tenants may challenge the reasonableness of their variable service charges by making an application to the First-Tier tribunal.
The Government's policy statement on rents for social housing (published in February 2019) encourages registered providers of social housing to keep increases for services charges within CPI+1% per annum, to help keep charges affordable. It also states that tenants should be supplied with clear information on how service charges are set, and in the case of social rent properties, providers are expected to identify service charges separately from the rent charge.
The Regulator of Social Housing's Rent Standard says that registered providers must comply with all the requirements and expectations of the Government's Rent Policy Statement on the setting, increase and decrease of rents and service charges.
Regarding transparency and accountability, the Social Housing Regulation Bill, introduced in the House of Lords on 8 June, will facilitate the implementation of the new, proactive consumer regulation regime. As part of the new regime, landlords will be required to report on a set of Tenant Satisfaction Measures. These are being developed by the Regulator of Social Housing, and will include measures relating to tenant engagement. Landlords will also be required to publish a set of financial metrics, including information on management costs, to allow tenants to hold their landlords to account and ensure they are receiving value for money. The Bill will also facilitate the introduction of an Access to Information scheme, enabling housing association tenants to request information from their landlords relating to the management of their homes.
This set of measures will ensure that residents can access key information regarding their homes and landlords, and will allow residents to have a stronger voice in decisions relating to their homes.