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Community housing regulatory framework

The Victorian regulatory framework requires registered agencies to be well-performing, financially viable and deliver quality tenant and housing services to tenants and prospective tenants.

Victoria’s regulatory framework consists primarily of the Housing Act 1983 (Vic) (Housing Act), gazetted Performance Standards and Intervention Guidelines.

The Housing Registrar strives to take a proactive, risk-based approach to regulation. This approach focuses on identifying and controlling potential harms and identifying continuous improvement opportunities to achieve the best outcomes for tenants and prospective tenants.

Key outputs

Key outputs of the Housing Registrar include:

  1. The Housing Registrar assesses registration applications submitted by not-for-profit rental housing agencies under the Housing Act. Rental housing agencies are registered as either 'housing associations' or 'housing providers’, determined by the level of risk associated with the scale and scope of the organisation’s operations and community housing activities. A list of all registered agencies is available on the Public Register.

    Further information can be found on the Applying for registration to become a registered agency page.

  2. The Housing Registrar monitors the compliance and performance of registered agencies through ongoing regulatory engagement and a range of regulatory requirements and reports.

    These include reportable events and reports submitted as part of annual compliance assessments.

    Where the Housing Registrar identifies compliance issues or areas for continuous improvement, a regulatory action plan is developed in consultation with the registered agency.

    The regulatory action plan reflects agreed regulatory action items to ensure (or improve) ongoing compliance and the implementation of continuous improvement opportunities, including improving key performance measure results.

    Further information can be found on the Monitoring and assessing registered agencies page.

  3. Under the Housing Act, the Registrar of Housing Agencies (Registrar), through the Housing Registrar, monitors complaints handling by registered agencies and has the discretion to investigate complaints.

    The Housing Registrar may investigate complaints referred to the Registrar from:

    • tenants and prospective tenants where the complaint has not been resolved after 30 days of being formally lodged with a registered agency. This does not include rental housing matters referrable to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
    • third parties where there is evidence of systemic failings including non-compliance with Performance Standards. This information may be used for ongoing regulatory engagement, including continuous improvement activities, or can be used as evidence to conduct inspections at the Registrar’s discretion if required. 

    This function ensures registered agencies have appropriate complaints management systems in place to resolve most complaints without formal regulatory intervention.

    Further information can be found on the Complaints management for community housing page.

  4. The Housing Registrar publicly reports on compliance and performance outcomes for each registered agency (including annual compliance assessments, the use of intervention powers and key performance measure results).

    This information is contained on the Public Register to promote transparency and ensure this information is accessible, easily understood and comparable.

    The performance of the sector is reported annually in the Sector Performance Report.

    The Housing Registrar separately reports on its own performance on an annual basis and collects evidence from a range of sources throughout the year to ensure continuous improvement and better regulation (published in the Regulatory Update Report).

    Further information can be found on the Registered agency regulatory requirements page.

  5. The Registrar has a range of intervention powers available under the Housing Act to address non-compliance and remedy intervention triggers in accordance with the Intervention Guidelines.

    These statutory powers exist to protect the interest of tenants and the community, including ensuring good governance, ongoing financial viability and facilitating the delivery of high-quality tenant and housing services.

    Intervention powers are used as a matter of last resort when an identified compliance issue cannot be resolved in a reasonable time frame having regard to the level of risk.

    Most compliance and performance issues identified by the Housing Registrar are managed proactively and cooperatively with registered agencies through tailored regulatory action plans.

    Regulatory action plans are based on a registered agency’s regulatory risk profile and take into account its compliance and performance history.

    Further information can be found on the Regulatory action and escalation page.

  6. The Housing Registrar contributes to a range of project work with key stakeholders including registered agencies, the industry body and other parts of Government.

    Projects are identified based on emerging risks and continuous improvement opportunities aligned to the Housing Registrar’s Corporate Plan.

  7. The Housing Registrar shares information with other parts of government to reduce regulatory red tape and support capacity building and system enhancement opportunities (subject to appropriate information sharing arrangements).

The registration and regulation of the community housing sector in Victoria, under the Housing Act requires registered agencies to provide information to the Housing Registrar. The Confidentiality information sheet below provides a general overview of the management and handling of information by the Housing Registrar under the Housing Act.

Principles

Five principles of good regulation underpin the Registrar’s regulatory framework and the work delivered by the Housing Registrar

  1. Proportionality - monitoring is appropriate to the risks facing an individual registered agency, intervening only when necessary with impacts and costs identified and minimised;
  2. Accountability – all decisions are justified by data and evidence, subject to public scrutiny where appropriate;
  3. Consistency - judgements and actions are applied in a predictable way, compatible with other government regulations, standards, contractual and program arrangements;
  4. Transparency - explanations of decisions and actions taken are clear, supported by regulations that are open, simple and user friendly; and
  5. Targeting - engagement is focused, delivered flexibly, and on specific areas of concern with individual agencies.

Risk-based regulation

The Registrar adopts a proactive, risk-based approach to the regulation of the community housing sector. This includes:

  • focusing on the most significant risks to tenants and prospective tenants (including poor quality of tenancy and housing services, poor governance, financial performance and management by registered agencies)
  • continually assessing each registered agency to understand its performance and risk
  • being open and transparent in why and how it communicates with registered agencies
  • giving registered agencies the opportunity to improve where there are problems, unless there is a need to act quickly
  • using its powers under the Housing Act in a proportionate way
  • taking effective action to safeguard the interests of tenants and prospective tenants when a registered agency does not have the capacity or willingness to improve

Empowering tenants

The Housing Registrar engages with and seeks to empower tenants and prospective tenants through its case (complaints) management system.

This complaints function exists primarily to ensure that if a registered agency’s complaints management system is not operating as intended and in accordance with the Housing Act and gazetted Performance Standards, tenants and prospective tenants can escalate unresolved rental housing matters to the Registrar.

This function gives the Registrar oversight of complaints management in the community housing sector and, importantly, provides protection to tenants and prospective tenants.

The Registrar also seeks to empower tenants and prospective tenants through the publication of compliance and performance information for each registered agency on the Public Register:

  • Executive Summaries of the outcomes of each registered agency’s annual compliance assessment include high-level information about the registered agency and overarching findings.
  • Formal intervention actions taken by the Registrar.
  • The Residential Rental Provider Report (for the 2019-20 Performance Year onwards) provides tenants and prospective tenants with accessible information on their registered agency’s performance against several key performance measures with a comparison of its performance against other registered agencies in its corresponding registration category (either as a housing association or housing provider).

Links to other useful areas of Government are also provided on the information for tenants page, including information on how to look for housing and how rent is determined.

National Regulatory System for Community Housing

In 2012, the Commonwealth of Australia and all states and territories, except Victoria and Western Australia, signed an Inter-Government Agreement to establish a National Regulatory System for Community Housing (NRSCH). 

The Victorian Government did not adopt the national model as it took the view that the Victorian Model was the best model to protect Victoria’s investment in the community housing sector, and that many of the benefits of the national system could be captured by aligning Victoria’s performance assessment and reporting requirements with the NRSCH.

Accordingly, the Victorian Government continues to closely align processes, where possible, to the NRSCH. This in turn reduces the burden on providers operating in multiple jurisdictions.

Reviewed 01 March 2021

Housing Registrar

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