The Regulator of Social Housing has criticised two local authorities for breaching the Home Standard, which requires registered providers to have a cost-effective repairs and maintenance service and to meet all applicable statutory requirements that provide for the health and safety of occupants in their homes.
In the first case the RSH found that Cornwall Council had failed to meet statutory health and safety requirements in relation to fire, electrical, asbestos and water safety.
The regulator said it had learned that around 90% of applicable buildings did not have a current fire risk assessment (FRA).
“There were also hundreds of remedial actions identified in FRAs carried out between 2016 and 2018 that had not been completed,” it added.
With regard to electrical safety, the evidence from Cornwall was that there were hundreds of properties which had not had an electrical inspection within the last ten years, and inspections were also overdue for around almost a hundred communal areas in properties.
There were also hundreds of remedial actions overdue in relation to asbestos safety and water safety.
The RSH said the council had breached part 1.2 of the Home Standard, and – as a consequence – there was the potential for serious detriment to the council’s tenants.
It concluded that the council did not have effective systems in place to allow it to meet its statutory health and safety responsibilities across a range of areas.
The RSH did acknowledge, however, that the council had demonstrated it was making progress to ensure the required statutory checks, and relevant safety actions, were completed, and that appropriate mitigations were in place in the meantime.
“Cornwall Council has put in place a programme to rectify these failures and the regulator will therefore not take statutory action at this stage, as it has assurance that the breach of the standard is being remedied. The regulator will work with the council as it continues to address the issues which have led to this situation, including ongoing monitoring of how it delivers its programme,” the regulator said.
The second case involved Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, which was also found to have breached part 1.2 of the Home Standard. It was similarly found to have failed to meet statutory health and safety requirements in relation to fire, water, electrical and asbestos safety.
With regard to electrical safety, Welwyn Hatfield reported that hundreds of its properties had never been inspected and a smaller number were inspected over ten years ago. A lack of recent inspections meant the council failed to have an assurance they were suitably maintained.
“For asbestos safety, the evidence provided by Welwyn Hatfield BC shows that over a hundred re-inspections and reviews of communal areas were overdue. The evidence also shows that with regards to water safety, hundreds of properties did not have a compliant Legionella Risk Assessment (LRA). The council was yet to establish whether a similar number of properties required an LRA,” the regulator said.
It acknowledged that since identifying these issues, Welwyn Hatfield had been working with an external consultant to develop and implement an action plan in order to strengthen its systems and return to compliance. It had also looked to strengthen its housing compliance team. “A programme of work has commenced, and we have been assured by Welwyn Hatfield BC that it has taken immediate and appropriate action to ensure the safety of tenants while the programme is being delivered.”
Accepting that the council was making progress, the RSH said it would not take statutory action at this stage, as it had assurance that the breach of the standard was being remedied. “The regulator will work with the council as it continues to address the issues which have led to this situation, including ongoing monitoring of how it delivers its programme.”
Both councils had self-referred to the RSH.