A specialist housing provider, already ruled as non-compliant with Governance and Financial Viability standards, can’t trace some tenants it evicted to allow the return of a lease.
Now, the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has found that Westmoreland Supported Housing Ltd failed to consult with tenants, failed to provide appropriate advice and assistance, and failed to consider what would happen to tenants during and after the notice period.
Westmoreland told RSH that some tenants had moved onto alternative accommodation after the notices had been issued.
But the outcome for some tenants who moved out is unknown, as some individuals could not be traced, the report says.
Alternative accommodation is now being found for the remaining tenants.
RSH says Westmoreland Supported Housing Limited has breached regulatory consumer standards with the potential for “serious detriment” to its tenants.
In making the ruling, RSH references evidence received of some accommodation provided by Westmoreland not meeting the Decent Homes Standard.
The resulting report says Westmoreland considered it to be the head landlord’s responsibility to bring the properties up to the required standard, and it had not put in place any arrangements which would allow it to resolve longstanding issues and their impact on its tenants.
RSH said that, in its view, Westmoreland’s approach to these repairs failed to respond to the needs of its tenants while, throughout the investigation, Westmoreland provided “inconsistent information” regarding its compliance with statutory health and safety requirements – with the possibility that large numbers of gas safety checks and fire risk assessments were previously overdue.
RSH acknowledges that now there is an “improved position” regarding health and safety, Westmoreland will need to complete further work while having mitigations in place to manage any residual risk to tenants.
Taking all of these factors into account, RSH concludes that Westmoreland has breached the Home standard, and has risked serious detriment to tenants.
The report outlines RSH receiving a small number of referrals relating to Westmoreland, particularly in relation to the quality of accommodation it provides, and how it has taken its tenants’ needs into account in relation to a decision to vacate a property and return the lease to the head landlord.
An external review found the properties to be in disrepair and said they were cold and lacked basic utilities.
The referrals raised concerns about the time Westmoreland was taking to address these issues, and Westmoreland told RSH that difficulties had arisen in the agreement with the head landlord regarding responsibility for repairs.
On the lease return, Westmoreland told RSH that it had notified the appropriate local authority before it issued the notices.
But the report says Westmoreland did not take steps to support tenants to maintain their tenancies, and issued notices to quit rather than considering whether alternative options might be appropriate.
The evidence, the report says, shows that Westmoreland failed to properly take the needs of these potentially vulnerable tenants into account.
RSH saw this as a breach of both the Tenancy standard and the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment standard.
Although Westmoreland has now told the regulator it will source alternative accommodation for those tenants who remain in the property, the report says that only occurred following its intervention from the regulator and that of other statutory bodies.
Of the tenants who chose to leave during the notice period, some have found alternative accommodation, but the outcome for others is unknown as a small number are unaccounted for.
On this, RSH concludes Westmoreland has risked serious detriment to tenants.
With RSH having previously concluded that Westmoreland is non-compliant with the Governance and Financial Viability standard, it is “engaging intensively” with the provider to monitor the delivery of its improvement plan.
The report says: “We will work closely with Westmoreland, as it now also seeks to resolve the issues which led to the breach of the consumer standards, and will keep our strategy, including the use of intervention powers, under review.”