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Modern housing estate

Do we really need yet more STAIRS?


The Social Tenant Access to Information Requirements (‘STAIRS’) consultation began on 20 May and ends on 15 July 2024. The consultation seeks views from the regulator of social housing (‘Regulator’), Housing Ombudsman, HCA, GLA Charity Commission and bodies representing tenants, registered providers and local housing authority interests, on the content of a policy statement requiring private registered providers (‘PRP’s) to allow tenants and their representative to access information related to their housing management.

It would certainly be more welcoming, for the tenants alone to have rights to access information rather than their representatives. I am clearly only thinking of the already busy tenant law firms, who no doubt will be waiting avidly for STAIRS to become final and encouraging immediate applications. This is in addition to the existing rights to make a subject access request (SARs) and disclosure under the Housing Conditions Protocol.

The government is committed to building a culture of openness and transparency across the social housing sector, considered crucial to empowering tenants. STAIRS proposes to achieve this by directing the Regulator to introduce a new standard. Is this really necessary given the existing rights to access information indicated above?

The specifics of the STAIRS consultation

The Secretary of State will seek to rely upon S.17 of the Housing Regeneration Act 2008 to formally direct the Regulator to require PRP’s (not local authorities) to:

  1. Pro-actively publish certain relevant information about their activities relating to social housing management;
  2. To make that information routinely available;
  3. Use reasonable endeavours to obtain the information from any subcontractors; and,
  4. Ensure it is kept under regular review.

STAIRS proposes to introduce requirements for PRPs to have routinely available or upon written request within 30 calendar days, in summary some of the following information:

  1. Senior staff names, roles, organisation structures and governance arrangements;
  2. Decision making processes, policies, procedures relating to housing management, complaint prioritisation, information on tenant consultations and general tenant meetings;
  3. Spending, plans, maintenance work, stock transfers and progress to Net Zero;
  4. Performance reviews, tenant satisfaction measures, media releases, number of evictions and complaints information;
  5. Description of services and guidance for tenants;
  6. Information held in registers relating to social housing;

Relevant information could well cover the following:

  1. Handling of property moves and occupancy rights;
  2. Rent and or service charges for shared owners;
  3. Anti- social behaviour, estate management and property conditions information;
  4. Staff and training as well as complaints handling;
  5. Data handling and privacy;
  6. Housing stock profile, transfers and mergers;
  7. Compensation, communication and customer service.

Would STAIRS be binding?

If it goes through, it will be binding upon the Regulator. As with most things though, the proposal is not an absolute right. PRPs will have the right to refuse requests if it is reasonable to withhold the information, tenant identity or request is unclear, repeated or abusive requests have been submitted and or it will take longer than 18 hours to comply. Due regard can be had to the Data Protection or Freedom of Information provisions. What PRPs can’t do, is refuse the request upon the tenant’s identity, their reasons for the request and how the information is to be used following disclosure.

If the tenant remains unhappy with the refusal to provide information or actual disclosure, they can instigate their landlord’s internal complaints procedure. The request must be reviewed, and a written response provided to them within 30 calendar days. If the tenant remains aggrieved, they have recourse to the Housing Ombudsman. The Ombudsman will not be able to consider a complaint whilst the tenant has other options, so presumably a SAR must be completed first.

Key takeaway

I find myself asking will STAIRS drive up costs for PRP’s, whose resources are already stretched in addressing SARs and Disclosure requests? What real benefit or empowerment will the additional housing management information provide to tenants, that they do not already possess?

Written By Neelam Sharma

About Clarke Willmott’s social housing sector

Clarke Willmott’s social housing sector provides a wide range of legal support to RPs, RSLs, Local Authorities and ALMOs across England and Wales. Request a consultation to speak with one of our social housing experts.


Your key contacts

Lindsay Felstead


Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Southampton and Taunton
Lindsay is Head of our Housing Management team and jointly leads our Social Housing sector team. Lindsay was called to the Bar in 2000 and subsequently admitted as a Solicitor in 2005.
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Vicky Kells

Partner/Head of Cardiff Office

Vicky is head of our Cardiff office and jointly leads our Social Housing sector team and specialises in charging affordable housing portfolios.
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Amy helps businesses and individuals document their contract relationships with third parties ensuring their commercial contracts are legally sound and comply with all applicable laws.
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