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Oftenant - the Social Housing Regulator for the future

23 May 2008

Anthony Mayer has been announced as the first Chair of the soon to be Social Housing Regulator, Office for Tenants and Social Landlords (Oftenant). Oftenant has been created by the Housing and Regeneration Bill which is in the process of passing through Parliament. The Bill was produced following a review by Professor Martin Cave into the regulation of social housing which was published in June 2007.

It is proposed that Oftenant will take over the regulatory functions of the Housing Corporation and its objectives have been set out and include:

  • Encourage and support a supply of well managed social housing of appropriate quality, sufficient to meet reasonable demands
  • Ensure that actual or potential tenants of social housing have an appropriate degree of choice and protection
  • Ensure that tenants of social housing have the opportunity to be involved in its management
  • Ensure that registered providers of social housing perform their functions effectively, efficiently and economically
  • Regulate in a manner which:
  • Minimises interference; and is
  • Proportionate, consistent, transparent and accountable

Oftenant is on schedule to be created by April 2009. It is expected that the regulator will be an organisation of around 250 staff with two principal centres in London and Manchester. One of the first tasks of Oftenant will be to design a new regulatory system. However, Oftenant will for a period of time regulate using the same 1996 legislation that is currently being used by the Housing Corporation.

At present, it is only proposed that Oftenant regulates Registered Social Landlords (RSLs). The Government has indicated that in due course local authorities and Arms Length Management Organisations will be brought within the remit of Oftenant.

It will not be obligatory for RSLs to register with Oftenant. However, if they do not, they are unlikely to be eligible for grant funding.

Oftenant will have the power to set minimum standards of and ensure compliance with specified rules such as criteria for allocating accommodation, terms of tenancies, levels of rent, maintenance, methods of consulting and informing tenants of changes to rent/service charges etc.

If Oftenant suspects that a registered provider is failing to meet its standards, Oftenant can carry out an inspection. Following an inspection, Oftenant can adopt a process whereby the social landlord is fined for failing to meet the required standards. Its powers are greatly increased from those of the Housing Corporation.

Critics of the Bill say that as it is currently drafted, it gives Oftenant the right to regulate RSLs work at the local level and impose fines if they do not implement the policy of Central Government. As a result, various niche local schemes could be under threat as registered providers feel the need to focus on the subject areas the Government says are priorities which in turn may threaten the independence of registered providers.

The legislation that will create Oftenant is currently being discussed in Parliament and it is likely that further changes will be made before the legislation is finalised. We will keep you up to date in relation to any of these changes that will affect how social landlords are regulated.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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