The Social Housing (Regulation) Act – in practice

This review marks one of the first applications of the Ombudsman’s expanded powers under the Social Housing Regulation Act.

An independent review of social housing provider, Orbit Group, has recently been completed at the request of the Housing Ombudsman. The review focussed on Orbit Group’s management of damp and mould issues, resulting in 15 recommendations for the landlord. This review marks one of the first applications of the Ombudsman’s expanded powers under the Social Housing Regulation – writes Paralegal Niamh O’Connor.

The Social Housing (Regulations) Act 2023 has empowered the Housing Ombudsman Service to order comprehensive reviews of a landlord’s policies, practices, and the root causes of complaints, extending beyond individual redress to safeguard the welfare of all residents. The 2023 Act represents a significant move towards ensuring safe and satisfactory housing conditions.

The review into Orbit Group’s handling of damp and mould revealed:

  • Poor handling of damp and mould in social housing properties;
  • Residents living with damp and mould for as long as four years;
  • Failures in oversight of inspections and repairs; and
  • Consistent failures to address physical or mental health needs.

The independent review commended Orbit Group’s systems for registering, tracking, and analysing damp and mould cases. However, common themes across the seven cases investigated were a lack of involvement of residents and poor record-keeping. Moreover, the review insufficient and inconsistent ongoing staff training across repair topics, resulting in friction with both technical advisors and residents.

Amongst 15 suggestions, the independent review has recommended:

  • The landlord makes robust assurances in the landlord’s self-assessment against damp and mould standards.
  • The landlord improves its knowledge and information management.

Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway has commended Orbit Group’s engagement with the review process, highlighting the potential for improvements. He has stated that “Without the review, other residents may have experienced similar service failings and the learning from our investigations and the review will help the landlord to take targeted action to improve the experience of residents. Our power to order a wider review is one of the most significant changes to way the Ombudsman operates.

In response to the review’s findings, Orbit Group has expressed regret for the impacts on their customers and have committed to rectifying the shortcomings identified. They “are currently addressing any remaining recommendations identified in the report and are confident [their] new Assurance Programme will work to close the service gaps highlighted by the Ombudsman.” The landlord has also outlined initiatives aimed at strengthening service quality, including increased investment in training, improved case management, and the implementation of a their (above-mentioned) Assurance Programme.

You can read more about the Housing Ombudsman’s spotlight report on damp and mould – https://www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/reports/spotlight-reports/#c and knowledge and information management https://www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/reports/spotlight-reports/#b reports.

At FDM Solicitors, we have a dedicated team who bring Housing Conditions Claims against social landlords on behalf of inconvenienced tenants. We understand the difficulties of living in poor conditions. We are available by phone on our freephone number 0330 360 1724 to discuss your case.

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