In the aftermath of COVID-19's peak, regulators, like other organisations are having to adapt their approaches in recognition that the virus is likely to remain with us for some time yet.
The Scottish Housing Regulator ("SHR") has recently published a consultation on the future regulatory approach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. SHR proposes to adapt its Regulatory Framework ("the Framework") in three principal respects.
Annual Assurance Statements ("AAS")
The Framework currently requires all regulated bodies to prepare an AAS and submit it to SHR between April and October each year. An AAS contains information from the regulated body in relation to its standards and compliance in the past year. As well as submitting the AAS to SHR, the Framework requires regulated bodies to make the AAS available to tenants and other service users. The consultation proposes the introduction of flexibility around the submission of AAS to SHR, as well as the production of further guidance for regulated bodies on adapting their approach in light of COVID-19.
Publication of Scottish Social Housing Charter performance reports by landlords
Under the Framework, regulated bodies are required to update their tenants and other service users on their performance in achieving, or progressing towards, the Scottish Social Housing Charter outcomes and standards by no later than October each year. The consultation proposes an extension to this deadline to December 2020.
Publication of Engagement Plans and Regulatory Status
Under the Framework, SHR has to publish an Engagement Plan for each landlord. The first set of Engagement Plans were published in April 2019. Each plan sets out the information SHR requires of the landlord, what the landlord needs to do, and how and why SHR will engage with it. The publication of these plans was impacted by the pressures of COVID-19. The consultation proposes that SHR delivers updated Engagement Plans for all regulated bodies by the end of March 2021.
The proposed changes, although moderate, are likely to be of interest to landlords, tenants, service users and other interested parties such as lenders. Those with an interest will have until 14 August 2020 to submit their views to SHR. It will then be for SHR to decide, having regard to views that are expressed, whether to proceed as proposed in the consultation document.
It is likely that the coming weeks will see other regulators moving to adopt their approach in light of the impact of COVID-19.