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Self-referral to the Regulator of Social Housing

In December 2023, we took the decision to refer ourselves to the government’s Regulator of Social Housing for a potential breach of its consumer standards.

We specifically asked the Regulator to examine whether we are providing decent homes, running an efficient repairs service, and completing fire safety actions within acceptable timescales.

The Regulator has now reached its conclusions and published a Regulatory Notice, where it confirms our concerns and details its findings, along with recommendations for which areas are most urgent to address.

We accept the Housing Regulator’s findings and acknowledge our underperformance and ongoing challenges in some areas of the service.

We have already made progress in some areas, which the Regulator recognises in its notice. We will continue working with the Regulator until we have satisfied their concerns and achieved full compliance for our residents. The regulator is not taking statutory action at this stage.

The context

In October 2023, Lewisham Council took over responsibility for managing and maintaining more than 13,500 social rent homes across the borough, following the transfer of staff and services from Lewisham Homes. This means that services like repairs, caretaking and housing management are now the direct responsibility of the Council.

The aim of bringing the management of housing back into the Council is to improve it for residents by providing a more joined-up service, linking housing and other Council services that residents rely on.

We want to start this new era with openness and transparency so that our residents are aware of our challenges and what we are doing to overcome them.

Having reviewed housing services, we established that although many of the homes we manage are in good condition, some are not. We are also aware that our repairs service is too often difficult to access, and many of our residents are not satisfied with the level of service they receive.

We are determined to make improvements and tackle these issues, and as part of this process we decided to self-refer to the Regulator of Social Housing.

What happens next

We will continue working with the Regulator who will assess our efforts on an ongoing basis.

We will continue to implement our improvement programme, which includes commissioning a stock condition survey, addressing non-decency, closer monitoring of progress against all Fire Risk Assessment remedial actions and the creation of transformation plans focussed on repairs and complaints.

We are committed to this process, we welcome an external perspective on what the urgent priorities are, and believe this transparency will help us improve this vital service. We will keep residents updated and share our improvement plans in due course.

Investment and improvement action plans

Since taking over from Lewisham Homes in October, the Council has already taken steps to improve services. There have been persistent issues with some of our buildings. Many of our homes were built over 50 years ago and need substantial investment at a time when local councils – and other housing providers – are facing serious financial challenges. Our capital programme commits to £321m of investment in the stock over five years. Alongside this, we are making major investments to modernise our systems for managing and storing information.

Another major commitment is a condition survey of our housing stock. The survey will help us to build a more accurate picture of their condition to plan our investment. It began in February 2024 and is scheduled to be complete by December 2024. The last such survey was undertaken five years ago.

Frequently asked questions

How will you improve services? Where can I see the investment and improvement action plan?

Colleagues across our housing services team are committed to improving services for residents. Our plans to improve the performance of the repairs service comprise an immediate short-term plan which has already been mobilised, along with a full-scale service transformation plan to deliver long term improvements.

We have procured three new specialist contractors to work on our repairs backlog, alongside our long-term main contractors and our in-house repairs team.

We have published a summary of our 2024/25 Investment Programme and we will be setting out our detailed improvement plan in the coming months.

Is my home safe?

We have up-to-date Fire Risk Assessments for all our buildings, which are regularly updated. Our high-rise buildings also have named Building Safety Managers who check for fire safety concerns at least once a month. Since our submission to the Regulator in December, we have already reduced the number of overdue high-risk actions from over 200 to 66, and are continuing to make progress.

Fire Risk Assessments evaluate both the likelihood of a fire outbreak and the potential severity if such an event occurs. Part of our decision to self-refer to the Regulator is because we have fallen behind with addressing actions picked up in fire risk assessments, but we also want to be clear that none of our buildings present an immediate risk to residents.

Our assessors report on a wide range of issues, from significant risks to minor issues and make recommendations for potential improvements, all of which become ‘actions’ and are given an appropriate priority rating.

The process is designed to continually improve the fire safety of buildings, as well as to identify new risks as they emerge. In terms of fire safety, our concern is around how quickly we are responding to some action requests from our Fire Risk Assessors, and how some of our data is held.

To address these issues, we have changed the way we manage our contractors and the processes in place for our staff.

In addition to having all fire risk assessments up to date, compliance with other key assessments is high:

  • Gas safety checks: 99.9%
  • Asbestos surveys: 100%
  • Legionella risk assessments: 100%
  • Lift safety inspections: 92.4%
  • Electrical safety certificates: 99.5%
  • Communal electrical safety certificates: 100%
  • Smoke detectors (annual check): 99.9%

How many homes are not decent standard?

At the moment, 17% of homes do not meet the standard but this figure is likely to rise once we have the results of the stock condition survey. We will keep our capital programme under review to ensure we bring all possible homes up to the Decent Homes Standard in a planned programme.

What are the concerns regarding repairs?

Performance from April to November 2023 shows that repairs performance is not up to the standard we expect. 42% of emergency repairs were completed in time against a target of 90%. 53% of non-emergency repairs were completed in time against a target of 85%. 

What powers does the Housing Regulator have?

The objectives of the regulator are set out in the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008. It is empowered by Parliament to investigate social housing providers and enforce its decisions. Among the Regulator’s duties is to set consumer standards. It may take action if these standards are breached and there is a significant risk of serious detriment to social housing tenants. Read more about the Regulator of Social Housing.

I have had a bad experience with your service. How do I tell the Regulator?

The Regulator of Social Housing looks at the service as a whole and how it meets its standards. Individual complaints should be made through our complaints process or the Housing Ombudsman. The Regulator works with the Ombudsman to get an overall picture of how we are performing. Find out how to make a complaint.

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