Thistle Housing Association elects for homes transfer amid continued Regulator intervention

Thistle Housing Association has decided to transfer its homes to another Registered Social Landlord (RSL) as the Scottish Housing Regulator continues to investigate a number of “serious failures” within its governance and financial management.

In a new engagement plan for the landlord, the Regulator said Thistle made the decision after the conclusion of an independent review of the best way forward for the organisation and its tenants and service users.

In a letter sent to all residents last week, Thistle apologised for the “disruption and distress” caused by the Association.

It said: “We are aware of our failings across many areas of our business, in particular the issues around the Major Works Contract carried out by E.ON and the management of Health and Safety.

“We are sorry for the impact this has had on our customers. The Association is deeply disappointed by our failings in these areas.”

The letter added: “Secondly, as you are aware Thistle have been undergoing a period of scrutiny and reflection including an option appraisal to determine the best outcome for Thistle tenants and service users.

“As a result THA have decided to opt for a partnership arrangement with another reputable Registered Social Landlord to transfer their business and its assets. Further information as this process develops will be provided to all residents and other stakeholders.”

The Regulator said it will review Thistle’s proposed transfer strategy and continue its statutory appointments to ensure that the Association has the “necessary support and expertise to deal with the complex and serious issues it is facing”.

The Regulator is closely monitoring Thistle’s progress towards compliance with tenant and resident safety requirements, in particular its management of asbestos after it was served with a Statutory Improvement Notice by the Health and Safety Executive.

The two parties had been engaging since November 2016 when a tenant’s representative raised concerns with the Regulator about two gas leaks following the implementation of a contract with E.ON.

Thistle was then the subject of regular engagement during 2017/18 regarding serious delays and difficulties in managing a substantial contract, its governance capacity, risk management and its communications with service users and stakeholders. The Regulator had also engaged around weaknesses in Thistle’s approach to complaints handling.

The Regulator used its statutory powers of intervention to appoint a manager and five members to Thistle’s governing body in August 2018. This followed the Regulator identifying serious and widespread failures at Thistle to comply with the regulatory standards of governance and financial management and to meet outcome two of the Scottish Social Housing Charter in how it communicates with its tenants and service users.

In August 2019, the Regulator increased the number of appointees on the governing body to nine.

Ian Brennan, director of regulation at the Regulator, said: “Thistle is now addressing the underlying weaknesses in its governance that led to our decision to intervene.

“We will continue to work with Thistle to ensure that, in future, its tenants and residents have the benefit of a registered social landlord which complies with the Regulatory Standards of Governance and Financial Management. We welcome the recent apology that Thistle made to its tenants and residents for its past failures.”

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