Commercialisation, Complaints Procedures, HA Service Charges, Housing, Housing Law, Service charge fraud, Service Charges, Tenant & Resident Democracy

Should the Regulator Regulate Service Charges?

Take our poll!

With new housing laws rogressing through Parliament, there has been a flurry of interest in what the Regulator of Social Housing, should be doing. As part of this drive, the Regulator is consulting on which tenant satisfaction measures it should require from social housing providers.

The consultation is open to anyone, and closes on the 3rd March 2022. More details here.

Self-Reporting

The Regulator proposes a set of 22 tenant satisfaction measures that social housing providers, mainly housing associations, will be expected to report on. All self-reporting systems can be ‘gamed’ (manipulated) by corporate bodies, so this is one of the inherent problems with the proposals. There is no triangulation with the experiences of tenants and residents.

Glaring Omission?

The second problem however is the glaring omission of any relating to service charges, even though tenants and resident report serious failures to manage service charge systems by housing association landlords. SHAC is therefore encouraging all who have experience problems with service charge bills to respond directly to the consultation or take our poll:

Service Charge System Abuse

Invoices or bills are not provided within a reasonable timescale, and in some cases not at all. Costs were frequently incorrectly apportioned, and in some cases outright extortionate, with annual increases vastly outstripping inflation.

There was freqent evidence of landlords charging for services which have not (and in some cases could not) be delivered. Errors which were successfully challenged one year reappeared the next, and refunds didn’t always materialise, even when the error was admitted.

The evidence provided to SHAC shows that addressing these issues can no longer be considered a matter for individual tenants and residents. The problems are systemic, widespread, and persistent. The mechanisms for addressing the problems individually or even at estate level are wholly inadequate.

Pressing for Protection

Increasingly, tenants and residents facing unaffordable or unreasonable bills are refusing to pay them, and it is likely that more such ‘service charge strikes’ will develop. (See more about this tactic on our Strike Group page).

There needs to be high level action taken to end the abuse of service charging. In the meantime, pulling together and demanding that service charging is incorporated into regulatory procedures might be a step in the right direction.

29 January 2022


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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Social Housing Action Campaign (SHAC).

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