The Welsh government’s social housing regulation team has suspended regulatory judgements during the coronavirus outbreak, and urged providers to contact it if their financial viability or the safety of their tenants are at threat.
In guidance for social landlords published today, the government said that its regulatory focus would now be on the impact of coronavirus on registered social landlords’ (RSL) operations.
It said: “Primarily, this will be limited to the safety of tenants and service users and ongoing financial resilience and viability.”
It emphasised that providers must notify it immediately if they encounter any difficulties with their financial plans, “but in particular liquidity, covenant compliance or significant increases in rent arrears”.
Under the adapted regulatory approach publications of judgement reports, other than those due before the end of March, are “temporarily suspended”, as is routine regulatory oversight of assurance plans.
But the notice added: “Case management and oversight will, however, continue for RSLs where we have regulatory concerns. Effective co-regulation and self-reporting are key elements of the temporary approach but we will also be working proactively with any RSL where we identify potential issues or risks which are significant and material.”
Registered social landlords in Wales were notified of the suspensions on 20 March.
The government’s notice, made public today, said that it is not currently asking to see individual business continuity plans, but that it “may require assurance that plans are in place and operational”.
It added: “We do though expect RSLs to make reasoned, rational decisions based on good governance principles when considering the need to make any changes to how services are provided. We also expect that those decisions [are] properly communicated to tenants and other stakeholders as appropriate.”
And it emphasised: “RSLs must notify regulation of any significant changes to service provision or if they are encountering any difficulties with delivery services because of the pandemic – and we may seek further details.”
The move echoes a similar “flexing” of the approach being taken by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) in England, and adjustments by the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR), which it has given further details of today. Both of these actions have seen deadlines for some regulatory submissions postponed.
The RSH and the SHR have also both announced proposals to undertake new monthly surveys of landlords on the scale and impact of disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Commenting on its adapted regulatory approach, a Welsh government spokesperson told Social Housing: “All RSLs were contacted earlier this month and given a revised approach to regulation during the coronavirus pandemic by the regulator in Wales.
“This suspends the publication of regulatory judgements and routine regulatory oversight. However, where there are regulatory concerns, case management will continue and we will continue to work proactively with RSLs where potential issues or risks are identified.”