Update on rent policy errors

In late 2023 we identified a number of possible historical errors in how we had been calculating rent for some of our tenants, based on policies that were introduced in 2004 and 2016. Unfortunately, some of our tenants were technically overcharged as a result and will need to be refunded.

We proactively referred ourselves to the Regulator of Social Housing when we identified these issues, and have been engaging with the Regulator since then. We also informed our current tenants about these issues and worked quickly to ensure rents were correct from April 2024 onwards.

The Regulator has now issued a Regulatory Judgement, which recognises that these errors constituted a serious failing due to the high proportion of our tenants who are likely to have been affected, and the overall amount we are therefore likely to need to refund. However, it also recognises the fact that we identified these issues ourselves, self-referred to the Regulator, and corrected our rents from April. We will continue to engage positively with the Regulator as we work to put this right.

The next step is to put a process in place to calculate how much tenants may be owed, including working with the Department for Work and Pensions to understand how much of tenants’ rents may have been paid by Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. Also, if any affected tenants’ accounts are in arrears, any refund amount would need to be reduced by the amount owed. Once this work is complete, we will be able to start making refunds.

We will not be starting to process refunds for some months yet. When we start to process refunds, we will write to affected tenants to request payment details. We will not ‘cold call’ tenants to request payment details and we will never ask tenants to make a payment of any amount in order to receive a refund.

Cllr Gerri Bird, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “Our intention has always been to make what tenants pay transparent and to set rents as low as possible. When we created the Affordable Rents policy, we could have set rents higher than we did without breaching government guidance, but because of misinterpreting the guidance we have unfortunately overcharged some tenants. We are really sorry and we’re working to put this right as soon as we can. We really appreciate tenants’ patience with us while we work through this.

“I’ve seen some reports that tenants could receive thousands of pounds, and while a small number may receive refunds of that amount, the majority won’t. The most common error relates to Service Charges, which are approximately £2 per week, so any refund owed as a result of this error would only be in the thousands if a tenancy had been in place for 20+ years.”

Read more

Read about the errors, how they happened, how we are correcting them, and more: Rent corrections

Read the latest report on work to fix the errors, discussed at Housing Scrutiny Committee on 18 June: Agenda for Housing Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday, 18th June, 2024, 5.30 pm

Read our press release from 27 February: Council tenants told about corrections to rents after council identifies rent policy error