The Regulator of Social Housing has today slapped regulatory notices on four Kent councils, including Canterbury City Council.
Earlier in the year it emerged that 500 gas safety certificates had not been checked, and in today’s submission to the regulator the councils refer to “a number of other health and safety problems”.
The four authorities, Canterbury, Dover, Thanet and Folkestone & Hythe, each own 25% of East Kent Housing (EKH) an “Arm’s Length Management Organisation” (ALMO) created in 2011 to look after their housing stock.
The regulator has judged the council to be in breach of the Home Standard, which ensures housing providers “provide for the health and safety of the occupants in their homes”.
It also says that “there was the potential for serious detriment to Canterbury City Council’s tenants.”
Ultimate responsibility lies with the four councils and although they referred themselves to the regulator, they will now be under close supervision. In a joint statement, the four chief executives said:
“When we discovered the extent of the health and safety compliance problems at EKH, we reported ourselves to the Regulator for Social Housing.”
“As each of these failings has emerged, our immediate priority has been the safety and welfare of those tenants affected and it continues to be so.”
“We have taken direct action to work with EKH to put the problems right as quickly as possible and we are in the process of commissioning our own expert independent investigation into the issues”.
East Kent Housing
Although the full extent of the problems at EKH is yet to emerge there has already been one resignation earlier in the year from Mark Anderson, the Property Services Director. Deborah Upton, the Chief Executive remains in post, and EKH is still in charge of maintaining 17,000 properties across the region.
The Regulator of Social Housing has wide-ranging powers including imposing fines and can even award compensation to tenants. In extreme circumstances it can recommend that action be taken against individuals found responsible for breaching its codes or mismanaging the affairs of a housing provider.
EKH has been dogged by complaints and tenants have reported that it is often difficult to contact housing officers or make their complaints heard.
Whatever action the regulator takes, it now seems EKH’s days are numbered. Its tenants are unlikely to mourn its passing.
The four councils involved will have to their work cut out to bring housing provision up to an acceptable standard and they will all face serious questions as to how they allowed their tenants’ health and safety to be put at risk.