What are the proposals?
This briefing focusses on the anticipated introduction of standards relating to information and transparency. The draft Social Housing (Regulation) Bill (the “Bill”) introduces the ability for the Regulator to set standards for Registered Providers relating to the provision of information to social housing tenants concerning their accommodation, facilities and other services provided to them in connection with their social housing. In addition, standards relating to the publication of information on expenditure, management costs and remuneration of executives of Registered Providers which, amongst other things, may have an impact on overall tenant satisfaction measures.
It is anticipated that the information and transparency standards may follow the information request provisions set out in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”). There is likely, as with the FOIA, to be time limits in place for Registered Providers to respond and provide the information requested (whether to a tenant or the Regulator). Full details are awaited.
Getting your contracts ready
In increasing transparency, these arrangements may well increase the administrative burden on Registered Providers. Technology, property management and other service agreements could be affected. It is therefore important that contractors are aware of these obligations and are contractual obliged to assist with any requests.
For new contractual arrangements, consider including provisions to allow for the information and transparency standards to be implemented. Contractors can be contractually obliged to provide assistance with any information requests received by the Registered Provider to ensure compliance with the Bill (similar to the approach currently taken in relation to the FOIA). While the precise requirements of the Regulator and any potential exceptions/exclusions remain to be developed, early identification of this requirement should stand Registered Providers in good stead when the standards come into force.
Undertaking a review of existing contractual arrangements to assess the information which could be disclosed under the Bill may be of practical assistance. The Regulator/a tenant may have the ability to request sight, for example, of management information such as KPIs and SLAs as well as other reporting metrics to assess the performance of your contractors. Requests may be made to see how much money has been spent on services, the duration of those services and any remedial or cosmetic works that are carried out. Variations may be required to these contracts.
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The Bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords after which it will need to pass through the House of Commons before being adopted as law. For general information relating to the Bill, see our article: Social Housing (Regulation) Bill.