Two councils have been found in breach of the regulator’s Home Standard over multiple health and safety failures – including failing to act on hundreds of issues identified by fire risk assessments (FRAs).
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and Cornwall Council have both fallen foul of the standard, which meant there was the “potential for serious detriment to tenants”, the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) said. In both cases the councils self-referred themselves to the regulator.
At Welwyn Hatfield, the regulator found it failed to meet statutory health and safety requirements in relation to fire, water, electrical and asbestos safety. It has led to an apology from a councillor for the failings.
The regulator said around 90 per cent of the council’s applicable buildings were overdue an FRA.
In addition, thousands of remedial actions identified in FRAs carried out in 2018 had not been completed, around half of which had been given the highest risk rating and needed to be done immediately, or as soon as reasonably practical, the regulator said.
On electrical safety, Welwyn Hatfield reported that hundreds of its properties have never been inspected and a smaller number were inspected more than 10 years ago.
On asbestos safety, evidence from the council revealed that more than 100 re-inspections and reviews of communal areas were overdue, the regulator said.
Hundreds of the council’s properties did not have a compliant Legionella risk assessment (LRA). The council was also yet to establish whether a similar number of properties required an LRA, the regulator said.
“Since identifying these issues, Welwyn Hatfield has been working with an external consultant to develop and implement an action plan in order to strengthen its systems and return to a compliance,” the regulator said.
“It has also looked to strengthen its housing compliance team. A programme of work has commenced, and we have been assured by Welwyn Hatfield that it has taken immediate and appropriate action to ensure the safety of tenants while the programme is being delivered.”
Fiona Thomson, executive member for housing and climate change at the council, said: “I want to apologise to our tenants and leaseholders for not meeting all our responsibilities under the Home Standard.
“We fell short of what is expected of us, and what our tenants expect from us as their landlord.
“We are committed to dealing with the issues quickly and referred them to the Regulator of Social Housing so we can address the situation swiftly.
“It is encouraging our progress has been recognised by the regulator, including the new systems, processes and staff now in place to bring our compliance up to date.
“Our tenants and leaseholders will remain our top priority as we continue this important work, to give them the confidence we are doing everything we can to make sure it does not happen again.”
At Cornwall Council, the regulator found it had failed to meet statutory health and safety requirements in relation to fire, electrical, asbestos and water safety.
Around 90 per cent of the council’s applicable buildings did not have a current fire risk assessment, the regulator found. Hundreds of remedial actions identified in FRAs carried out between 2016 and 2018 had not been completed, the regulator said.
On electrical safety, the RSH found evidence that hundreds of the council’s properties had not had an electrical inspection in the past 10 years, and inspections were also overdue for around 100 communal areas in properties.
For asbestos safety, the council reported hundreds of remedial actions overdue in its communal areas. On water safety, hundreds of remedial actions were also overdue or outstanding, the regulator said.
Despite the failures, the RSH said it would not take statutory action at this stage as the council was rectifying the problems and it had assurance the breach of the standard is being “remedied”.
“The regulator will work with the council as it continues to address the issues which have led to this situation, including ongoing monitoring of how it delivers its programme,” it said.
Cornwall Council has been contacted for comment.