Details of upcoming changes to the Homes and Communities Agency's (HCA) regulatory framework have been published.

An earlier draft document had stated that housing associations must get permission from the watchdog if they want to lend money secured against their properties to non-social housing organisations.

However, the move had proved unpopular among some housing associations, with critics arguing it could create more red tape. The HCA has therefore abandoned this proposal.

Julian Ashby, head of the watchdog's regulation committee, said it has had "detailed and constructive conversation with the sector and its stakeholders".

As a result, he is "confident" the changes it has made will have a positive impact.

Nevertheless, permission will be required in a number of other situations, such as when a parent company is not registered with the HCA or if a housing association is seeking to raise index-linked finance.

Another significant change is a clause stating that if landlords can demonstrate they have "taken all reasonable steps to comply" with the relevant law, non-compliance will not automatically be regarded as a breach of HCA standards.

This comes in response to concerns that landlords could be penalised for minor and unintentional breaches of the rules.

The HCA was recently criticised when research by consultancy Housemark revealed that more than half of landlords believe the regulator's rules are not as clear as they could be.

Jonathan Walters, deputy director of strategy and performance at the watchdog, responded by telling Inside Housing that it has been reluctant to make the rules too prescriptive.

He warned there is a danger that "if we start telling people what to do, we could start effectively telling them how to run their business".

Some 38 respondents out of the 71 landlords polled by Housemark admitted to being uncertain about exactly what they are required to do. Of this group, 22 said the rules regarding return on assets are particularly hard to understand, while some raised concerns about there being no "common understanding" of strategic asset management among social landlords.