Tenant Cashback – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

This month, the Home Group, one of the social landlords piloting Grant Shapps’ tenant cashback vision – which will allow tenants to manage their repairs budget – issued details of its forthcoming plans for the trial.

Based on the pilots, the government is planning to change the regulations to spread the scheme across England later this year.

The Government wants all landlords to offer their tenants the chance to manage their repairs budgets – and will bring forward changes to regulations to give all tenants the option to request it from their landlord.

Here, Phil Morgan, former executive director of corporate services at the Tenant Services Authority (TSA), welcomes the initiative but has concerns over its regulation.

“Tenants taking responsibility, where they are able to, for minor repairs and housekeeping is a good idea.

“It encourages self-reliance, can save money and can support wider community empowerment. However, we have to first get rid of the hyperbola around this – this cannot include gas repairs, safety inspections, major structural works, and, given, the emphasis on value for money, end up costing more for tenants and landlords alike.

“It won’t save or even significantly reduce the £4bn repairs bill and given the squeeze on housing benefits, it is disingenuous to pretend all savings will go back to tenants. That said, Tenant Cashback has merits worth exploring, and as with Local Offers, the pilots are an excellent way of learning valuable lessons before it is introduced more widely.

“However, doing so through the Regulatory regime smacks of ‘policy passporting’. Instead of letting landlords and tenants work this through Local Offers on Repairs and Maintenance, Shapps can’t resist the temptation to impose it through regulation.

“There will only be one item fixed in the Annual Report in future – the Repairs and Maintenance budget. Nothing, say, about tenant satisfaction with, or tenant scrutiny of, or meeting quality standards for Repairs and Maintenance. All of these would be more effective in helping tenants improve their service.

“But the darkest irony of all is that Shapps has been busily undermining the very mechanism, “Regulation” that he now expects to deliver Tenant Cashback for him.

“But what if landlord doesn’t comply? Does refusal to comply result in “serious detriment” to tenants?

“It will be hard enough for the Regulator to intervene where tenants get really poor service delivery of their repairs and maintenance service – but delivery of Tenant Cashback won’t even come close.”