A York social housing landlord has overcharged more than 180 of its tenants to the tune of nearly half a million pounds.
Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) has now promised to pay back tenants what they are owed.
Findings by the Regulator of Social Housing said that JRHT is not compliant with the Rent Standard, which ensures that tenants have a fair and affordable rent.
The Rent Standard was introduced in April 2020. Before that, between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2020, JRHT was not compliant with the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016.
Specifically, the trust “incorrectly assumed 89 of its units were specialised supported housing” which would have made them exempt from the Rent Standard.
JRHT also made errors setting the rent for up to 400 ‘fair rent’ tenancies.
The regulator said: “This is a result of not reviewing the registration of its fair rent tenancies since 2008. The maximum fair rent has been exceeded for at least 183 tenancies.
“At least £479,000 is estimated to have been overcharged by JRHT in respect of these issues.”
The regulator said JRHT was “engaging positively” to resolve the issues. It added: “A detailed review to assess the scale and nature of any other potential errors in rent setting across JRHT’s portfolio of social housing assets is underway.”
Taking ‘immediate action’
The trust owns around 2,600 homes, most of which are in York, but also in Leeds, Scarborough and Hartlepool.
A JRHT spokesperson said: “JRHT have recently undertaken a proactive review of all the rents we have charged our residents in recent years.
“During this review we have discovered that we have incorrectly categorised 89 properties as specialised supported housing which resulted in the 1% rent reduction not being applied between 2016 and 2020.
“In a separate issue, we also found that as a result of not re-registering fair rents, the maximum fair rent has been exceeded on at least 183 tenancies which means that residents have been overcharged.
“In all cases we will arrange for this money to be paid back, either directly to the resident or, if the rent is paid by housing benefit directly to the local authority.
“Some residents have already been made aware of this oversight and have had assurance that immediate action is being taken to correct it.
“We will be communicating with other residents over the coming weeks.”