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Social housing regulation: discussion paper on fee charging

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has published a discussion paper seeking views from providers, tenants, lenders and others on introducing a fee charging scheme for regulation. The move would bring social housing providers into line with organisations in other sectors where fee charging is common.

The Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 gave the Regulator the power to raise fees to cover the costs of its work. The Regulator is seeking views from the sector about switching from the current grant-in-aid arrangement, to a system where the Regulator recovers part or all of the cost of regulation through fees charged to Registered Providers.

Any fees scheme introduced will be in line with the Regulator’s fees powers and statutory objectives; and the principles will be approved by the Secretary of State.

In line with legislation, the fees system could comprise two distinct elements: a one-off fee for registration with the Regulator, and an annual fee to providers to cover the costs of on-going regulation. The discussion document published today sets out the Regulator’s initial thinking and asks 16 questions, including what the sector thinks of fees in principle; the level of any fees and the ways in which those levels might be determined; the timing of fee payments; and any potential impacts on the sector.  It also suggests that local authority providers should be fee exempt.

Julian Ashby, Chair of the HCA Regulation Committee said:

“It is common practice for regulated bodies to pay for the cost of regulation, so it is the relevant industry and not the taxpayer who pays. The Housing and Regeneration Act gave us the power to charge fees, but as yet we haven’t used it.

“There are considerable benefits in being part of a well regulated sector, to both providers and tenants, and we are keen to hear the views of the sector.”

The regulator will be conducting a comprehensive programme of stakeholder engagement on fees. Feedback from the discussion document will inform a formal consultation later this year, setting out the full details of the Regulator’s proposed approach.

Depending on the outcome of the statutory consultation, the earliest a fee charging regime might be introduced is April 2015. If this occurs, the Regulator will confirm final proposals and the relevant fee amount for each provider in October 2014, so providers can plan for this in their budgets.

Responses to the discussion document, which is available from the HCA website, are requested by 5pm, 21 March 2014.

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