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UK Councils and Housing Associations Face Unlimited Fines for Failing Tenants

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Councils and housing associations could get unlimited fines if they are found to have provided damp, cold, and unsafe homes for tenants, under new legislation being laid before Parliament on Wednesday.

The legislation is being introduced in the run-up to the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in Kensington, west London, which killed 72 people.

The Social Housing Regulation Bill will give greater powers to the regulator, which will be able to implement emergency repairs where there is a serious risk to tenants, with the tab being picked up by their landlords.

In May 2021 the Housing Ombudsman launched an investigation into “unlivable” housing conditions after ITV News revealed tenants in Croydon, south London, were getting little or no help from their local council over damp and mould in their homes.

Last month Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove wrote to Britain’s biggest social landlord, Clarion, and threatened to intervene after the Housing Ombudsman found two severe cases of maladministration within two weeks.

On Wednesday Gove said: “In 2022 it is disgraceful that anyone should live in damp, cold, and unsafe homes, waiting months for repairs and being routinely ignored by their landlord.”

He said the new legislation was the “latest step in addressing the systemic issues” identified after the Grenfell Tower fire.

A public inquiry into the fire has heard allegations that Grenfell Tower tenants were ignored by Kensington and Chelsea Council in the run-up to the blaze, which was caused when fire spread up the side of the building because of unsafe cladding.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities said social housing tenants would have a right to demand information from their landlords and would be able to rate their housing provider.

Councils and housing associations will also need to provide a named individual who will be responsible for health and safety requirements.

The government has promised a “major reset” of the relationship between social landlords and tenants.

The Chief Executive of Shelter, Polly Neate, welcomed the bill: “Social housing tenants have put up with too much for too long—too many have been ignored and stigmatised because of where they live. Five long years after Grenfell, this bill will tip the scales of power closer in the direction of fairness and accountability.”

In the UK almost 4 million people live in flats or houses which are owned by a council or housing association.

Between 1920 and 1980 millions of properties were built for social housing but in 1979 former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher introduced the Right-to-Buy policy, which allowed tenants to buy their homes from the council at a discount.

PA Media contributed to this report.

Chris Summers

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Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.

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