Summary of Devonshires’ Comments on the Social Housing Green Paper

Our response to the Green paper consultation exercise can be summarised as follows: Stigmatisation can only be avoided by treating all tenants the same

Differentiation between the tenants of different classes of landlords inevitably leads to pejorative comparisons. In particular assumptions that classes of tenants need different protections against their landlords implies patronising assumptions about tenants competence and what they deserve.

  • Sensible use of apps and ideally a Housing Tribunal could provide effective quick remedies for tenants – and could be kick-started by landlords.

No-one can pretend that the current mix of courts, complaints procedures and the Ombudsman delivers certain swift results for tenants or landlords.  At the same time the use of apps gives the possibility of clear agreed protocols for setting out complaints or misbehaviour in a way that allows for swift accurate resolution. The Department should sponsor their development. A Housing Tribunal would provide speed and expertise on a wide range of housing disputes; in its absence landlords could consider embodying mediation in their relations with tenants.

The absence of effective remedies means that, sometimes with benign intent, regulation and talking shops are introduced as an imperfect substitute.  More often such regulation is stigmatising, and the talking shops make promises which do not deliver.

All tenants suffer from the lack of effective remedy.

  • Transfer of ownership or management needs to be simpler, clearer and not subject to inexpert subjective judgements.

Good ownership of property does not necessarily involve the same skills as good management of rented residential property. Schemes to enable the separation of the PropCo interests from the OpCo activity to enable both skills to be professionally managed and pursued are sensible. Where they require statutory provision (as with ALMOs, TMOs, the Right to Manage and the Right to Transfer) the provisions should be clear, objective and simple to implement. More care needs to be taken with the provisions dealing with underperformance, and with subjective judgements penalising community investment.

The full response is available here.

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