Regulator confirms council that overcharged by £3m broke rent rules
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A government body has found East Suffolk Council broke rent rules for its housing tenants - overcharging them by nearly £3million in total.
The Regulator of Social Housing's investigation said the authority breached an Act of Parliament and the nationally-recognised Rent Standard and has now issued a regulatory notice against the council to ensure it puts matters right.
It said: "The scale and seriousness of the breach of rent requirements reported by East Suffolk Council is significant and has been compounded by the fact the council continued to charge incorrect rents for a period of almost two years while knowing this may not be permissible."
However, because the council has admitted its faults and "acted in an appropriate manner and understands the issues fully" no legal action will be taken.
The regulator says the council - which reported itself to the regulator - has developed a detailed improvement plan to address all issues, including reimbursing tenants and other bodies that have been overcharged and developing new rent policies and procedures to reflect current requirements.
Documents issued by the regulator show the total overcharge to tenants to be around £2.58million plus an additional £380,000 in relation to other changes.
Around 1,000 tenants are affected.
The regulator also looked at other issues relating to the standard and safety of homes and found East Suffolk did not have data to provide assurance that it had completed tests and inspections within the relevant timescales in relation to electrical safety, water safety, asbestos management or lift safety.
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Almost 100 fire risk safety assessments were overdue.
Steve Gallant, leader of East Suffolk Council, said: “Following a report provided to me earlier this year by the council’s newly-appointed head of housing I announced that an immediate and thorough review of issues dating back to the time of Waveney District Council was urgently needed. I am pleased that a wide-ranging programme of remedial work is now underway both in relation to the issue of rent setting and health and safety.
“The regulatory notices which have now been published are fair, and essentially present what we already knew, incorporating a range of issues which we are working hard to resolve. The work will continue and it will be completed as soon as possible.”