November 2, 2023

Social housing construction and avoiding disputes

When delivering residential construction projects, it’s important that you understand the legal obligations and Government targets that you should meet, to avoid disputes.

Certain standards and regulations may apply to your construction projects if you work with or for:

  • A housing association
  • A registered for-profit provider
  • A local council

If you work in the construction and maintenance of public housing, it’s important that you understand your legal obligations to avoid disputes with tenants or local authorities.

The Decent Homes Standard

The Decent Homes Standard (DHS) is the Government standard for public sector housing in the UK, first introduced in 2000.

It has been reviewed several times following the 2020 Social Housing White Paper, most recently in June 2023. In its current form, the DHS aims to cut the number of unsuitable homes in half by 2030, working with private and public sector housing providers to achieve this.

In order to be a ‘decent’ home, a property must:

  • Meet the statutory minimum requirements for housing
  • Be in a reasonable state of repair
  • Have reasonably modern facilities, including kitchen and bathroom facilities
  • Provide a reasonable degree of ‘thermal comfort’, usually through insulation and heating

Recent Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) data suggests that the number of social homes from private registered providers (PRPs) failing the DHS has risen by 130 per cent year on year.

To avoid legal disputes arising with tenants, housing associations or local authorities, all social housing projects must meet this standard.

Where construction meets legislation

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of social housing landlords to provide homes that abide by the DHS.

However, as a construction partner, you will play a key role in ensuring that social housing meets Government standards and stays compliant with the most recent legislation.

The RSH report found that 48 per cent of units failed primarily for not being in a reasonable state of repair. Closely behind, 47 per cent of buildings failed to provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort – something which the Government aims to tackle in 2024 with a consultation of energy efficiency requirements for social housing.

Initial failure to meet these standards may cause disputes with landlords or tenants in a number of ways, including over the use of low-quality or unsustainable materials.

To stay compliant, seek advice from a solicitor when drafting supplier contracts, project timelines and amendments to existing agreements.

Recent and upcoming changes to regulations

Granted Royal Assent in July 2023, the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 will introduce tighter regulations around the safety of social housing construction. It will also make it easier for tenants to make complaints against housing that fails to meet the minimum standards.

Although it doesn’t directly target the construction sector, the Act’s compliance requirements will have an impact on the construction of social housing. This means that it is in the best interest of you and your team to meet or exceed the Decent Homes Standard.

As construction law specialists, we can help you understand the complexities of delivering social housing projects. Our expertise includes contract negotiation, mediation, dispute resolution and formal representation – helping you complete your projects on time, on budget and fully compliant.

If you need advice on meeting your legal requirements as a social housing provider, please contact our team today.