Revised draft of the Charter - January 2012

THE SCOTTISH SOCIAL HOUSING CHARTER

Introduction

1          Status of the Charter

1.1       As required by section 31 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010, the Scottish Ministers, in this Scottish Social Housing Charter, set the standards and outcomes that all social landlords should aim to achieve when performing their housing activities.

1.2       The Charter was approved by resolution of the Scottish Parliament on [ ] 2012.  It has effect from 1 April 2012 and continues to have effect until the Parliament approves a revised Charter.   

1.3       Before submitting the Charter to the Scottish Parliament for approval, and as required by section 33 of the 2010 Act, the Scottish Ministers consulted the Scottish Housing Regulator; tenants and bodies representing the tenants of social landlords; social landlords; homeless persons; and other stakeholders about the content of the Charter.  They have taken account of the views of these stakeholders to ensure that the outcomes in the Charter:

 

  • describe the results that tenants and other customers of social landlords expect social landlords to achieve when performing their housing activities
  • only cover activities that are part of social landlords' housing activities
  • can be monitored, assessed and reported upon by the Scottish Housing Regulator. 

 

1.4       The Charter replaces the performance standards contained in the guidance that the Scottish Ministers issued under section 79 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 in November 2006.  It does not replace any of the legal duties that apply to social landlords, but in a number of cases the outcomes describe the results that social landlords should achieve in meeting their legal duties.     

2          Purpose of the Charter

2.1       The Charter will help to improve the quality and value of the services that social landlords deliver for their tenants and other customers and supports the Scottish Government's strategic objective of a safer and stronger Scotland.  It will do so in the following ways:

By providing tenants and other customers with a clear statement of what they can expect from social landlords, and helping them to hold landlords to account;  

It will focus the efforts of social landlords on achieving outcomes that matter to their tenants and other customers;

It will provide the basis for the Scottish Housing Regulator to assess and report on how well landlords are performing.  This will enable the Regulator, tenants and other customers, and social landlords to identify areas of strong performance and areas where improvement is needed. 

2.2       The Regulator's reports will also give the Scottish Government information which will help it ensure that public investment in new social housing goes only to landlords that the Regulator assesses as performing well.

3          Scope and content of the outcomes and standards

3.1       The Charter is set out in 7 sections covering: Equalities; The Customer/Landlord Relationship; Housing Quality and Maintenance; Neighbourhood and Community; Access to Housing and Support; Getting Good Value from Rents and Service Charges; and Other Customers.  It contains a total of 16 outcomes and standards that social landlords should aim to achieve when performing their housing activities.  With the exception of number 12, which applies only to local authorities in relation to homelessness duties, and number 16, which applies only to local authorities and registered social landlords that manage sites for gypsies and travellers, the outcomes and standards apply to all social landlords. 

3.2       Each section is accompanied by a short narrative that describes the context of the outcome or standard, including the areas of activity to which it applies and any relevant legal duties connected with it.  The narrative is not part of the outcome that social landlords should achieve.  It does not prescribe the way in which social landlords achieve the outcome.  That is a matter for each landlord to decide in consultation with its tenants and other customers.

4          Assessing social landlords' achievement of the outcomes

4.1       Social landlords are responsible for performing their housing activities to achieve the outcomes in the Charter.  They are accountable to their tenants and other customers for how well they do so.  They should ensure that their performance management and reporting systems can show them how well they are achieving the outcomes, identify any areas where they need to improve and enable them to report their achievements to their tenants and other customers, and to the Scottish Housing Regulator.     

4.2       Under the 2010 Act, the Scottish Housing Regulator is responsible for monitoring, assessing and reporting on how well social landlords, individually and collectively are achieving the Charter's outcomes.  It will consult on and then publish its arrangements for doing so. 

 

5          Reviewing and revising the Charter

5.1       Unless stakeholders raise urgent and significant concerns about how the Charter is working in practice, the Scottish Ministers intend that the Charter should have effect for five years from 1 April 2012.  In consultation with stakeholders,  they will review the effect that the Charter has on the quality and value of services that social landlords deliver, and its value to tenants and other customers, social landlords and the Scottish Housing Regulator.  It will start the review within two years of the Charter having effect, so that the review's findings can be taken into account in preparing a revised Charter that will have effect from 1 April 2017. 

   

Charter outcomes and standards

The Customer/Landlord relationship

1: Equalities

 

Social landlords perform all aspects of their housing services so that: 

 

  • every tenant and other customer has their individual needs recognised, is treated fairly and with respect, and receives fair access to housing and housing services.

 

This outcome describes what social landlords, by complying with equalities legislation, should achieve for all tenants and other customers regardless of age, disability, gender, reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation.  It includes landlords finding ways of understanding the needs of different customers and delivering services that recognise and meet these needs.

 

 

 

2: Communication

 

Social landlords manage their businesses so that:

 

  • tenants and other customers find it easy to communicate with their landlord and get the information they need about their landlord, how and why it makes decisions and the services that the landlord provides.

 

This outcome covers all aspects of landlords' communication with tenants and other customers.  It is not just about how clearly and effectively a landlord gives information to those who want it.  It is also about making it easy for tenants and other customers to make complaints and provide feedback on services, using that information to improve services and performance, and letting people know what they have done in response to complaints and feedback.  It does not require landlords to provide legally protected, personal or commercial information.

 

 

 

3: Participation

 

 Social landlords manage their businesses so that:

 

  • tenants and other customers find it easy to participate in and influence their landlord's decisions at a level they feel comfortable with.

 

This outcome describes what landlords should achieve by meeting their statutory tenant participation duties.  It covers how social landlords gather and take account of the views and priorities of their tenants, how these views are reflected in the landlord's services and how landlords help and support tenants and other customers to build up their capacity for effective involvement.

 

 

Housing Quality and Maintenance

 

4: Quality of Housing

 

Social landlords manage their businesses so that:

 

  • tenants' homes, as a minimum, meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS) by April 2015, and continue to meet it thereafter and are always clean, tidy and in a good state of repair when they are allocated.

 

This standard describes what landlords should be achieving in all their properties.  It covers all properties that social landlords let, unless the Scottish Government has agreed that particular properties do not have to meet the standard.  Beyond SHQS, landlords should be looking for cost effective ways of achieving higher energy efficiency standards for their properties to provide warmer homes for their tenants and help to address climate change.

 

During the life-time of this Charter, the Scottish Government will consult on higher standards.  If adopted, these new requirements will form part of the next Charter.

 

 

 

   

5: Repairs, maintenance and improvements

 

Social landlords manage their businesses so that:

 

  • tenants' homes are well maintained, with repairs and improvements carried out when required, and tenants are given reasonable choices about when work is done.

 

This outcome describes what landlords should achieve for their tenants by meeting their statutory duties on repairs and by providing repairs, maintenance and improvement services that safeguard the value of their assets and take account of the wishes and preferences of their tenants.  This could include setting repair priorities and timescales, setting repair standards such as getting repairs done right, on time, first time, and assessing tenant satisfaction with the quality of the services they receive. 

 

Neighbourhood and Community

6: Estate Management, anti social behaviour, neighbour nuisance and tenancy disputes

 

Social landlords, working in partnership with other agencies, help to ensure that:

 

  • tenants and other customers live in well maintained neighbourhoods, where they feel safe.

 

This outcome covers a range of actions that social landlords can take on their own and in partnership with others.  It covers landlord action to enforce tenancy conditions relating to estate management and neighbour nuisance, to resolve neighbour disputes, and to arrange or provide tenancy support where this is needed.  It also covers the role landlords can play in partnership with others to address anti-social behaviour. 

 

 

Access to Housing and Support  

7, 8 and 9: Housing options

 

Social landlords work together to ensure that:

 

  • people looking for housing get information that helps them make informed choices and decisions about the range of housing options available to them

 

  • tenants and people on housing lists can review their housing options.

 

Social landlords ensure that:

 

  • people at risk of losing their homes get advice on preventing homelessness.

 

These outcomes cover landlords' duties to provide information to those looking for housing and advice for people at risk of becoming homeless, including helping tenants and people on housing lists to review their options to move within the social housing sector or to another sector.

 

 

10: Access to social housing

 

Social landlords ensure that:

 

  • people looking for housing find it easy to apply for the widest choice of social housing available and get the information they need on how the landlord allocates homes and their prospects of being housed.

 

This outcome covers a range of actions that social landlords can take to make it easy for people looking for social housing to apply for the widest choice of social housing that is available, suitable and meets their needs.  It includes actions that social landlords can take on their own and in partnership with others, for example through Common Housing Registers, or as members of a mutual exchange scheme, or through local information and advice schemes.

 

 

 

11: Tenancy sustainment

 

Social landlords ensure that:

 

  • tenants get the information they need on how to access support options to help them to remain in their home and can get suitable support including services provided directly by the landlord and by other organisations.

 

This outcome covers what landlords can achieve for tenants who may need support to help them maintain their tenancy.  It includes tenants who may be at risk of getting into arrears with their rent and tenants who may need to have their home adapted to cope with age, or disability, or caring responsibilities if they are to remain there.

 

 

12: Homeless people

 

Local authorities perform their duties on homelessness so that:

 

  • homeless people get prompt and easy access to help and advice, are provided with suitable, good quality temporary or emergency accommodation, when this is needed, and are offered continuing support to help them get and keep a home.

 

This outcome describes what local authorities should achieve by meeting their statutory duties to homeless people.

 

 

Getting Good Value from Rents and Service Charges

13: Value for money

 

Social landlords manage all aspects of their businesses so that:

 

  • tenants, owners and other customers receive services that provide continually improving value for the rent and other charges they pay.

 

This standard covers the efficient and effective management of the services that social landlords provide.  It includes landlords' ability to minimise the time houses are empty; to manage arrears and all resources effectively; control costs; get value out of the contracts they let; and deliver improving value for money by increasing the quality of services with minimum additional cost to tenants, owners and other customers.

 

 

14 and 15: Rents and Service Charges

 

Social landlords set rents and service charges in consultation with their tenants and other customers so that:

 

  • a balance is struck between level of services provided, the cost of the services and how far current and prospective tenants and service users can afford them
  • tenants get clear information on how rents and other money is spent, including details of individual items of expenditure above thresholds agreed between landlords and tenants.

 

These outcomes reflect a landlord's legal duty to consult tenants about rent setting, the importance of landlords taking account of what their current and prospective tenants and other customers are likely to be able to afford, and the importance that many tenants place on being able to find out about how their money is spent.  Whether information about expenditure above a particular level is published and in what form and detail is a matter for each landlord to decide in discussion with its tenants.  What matters is that discussions take place and the decisions made reflect the views of tenants and other customers.  

 

 

 

Other Customers

16: Gypsies/Travellers

 

Local authorities and social landlords with responsibility for managing sites for gypsies and travellers should manage the sites so that:

 

  • sites are well maintained and managed.

 

This outcome applies only to those local authorities and other social landlords that are responsible for managing these sites.

 

 

Scottish Government

January 2012

 

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