All landlords within the regulated housing sector are required to operate a complaints procedure that provide an opportunity for residents to be heard and gives landlords an opportunity to put things right when things have gone wrong.
What is a complaint?
TAROE Trust were involved in the development of the Housing Ombudsman Service’s Complaint Handling Code. This Code includes a definition of a complaint as follows:
an expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions or lack of action by the organisation, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf, affecting an individual resident or group of residents.
Residents do not have to describe their concerns as a complaint for it to be treated as such.
Landlords may refuse to accept a complaint if certain exclusions apply, such as the complaint relates to something that occurred over 6 months ago, or formal legal proceedings have also commenced relating to the issue. In such circumstances, the landlord should explain to you clearly why they will not accept the complaint, and residents have the opportunity to appeal against this decision to the Housing Ombudsman services.
How will my landlord deal with complaints?
All landlords are required to operate a complaints policy which clearly sets out how they will deal with the complaints they receive, and which is clearly accessible for residents to access.
Some key features should apply to a landlord’s complaints handling procedure (as per the Complaints Handling Code):
- Complaints received should be acknowledged and logged by the landlord.
- If a complaint is not resolved at the first stage, the resident should have an option to progress the complaint to the next stage in line with the landlord’s published procedures.
- Landlord complaint procedures should normally consist of two stages only. Some landlords may believe that three stages are necessary. In such circumstances, they should publish the reasons for this. No procedure should involve more than three stages.
- Any final decision by a landlord should confirm a resident’s right to refer the matter to the Housing Ombudsman Service (Note: this should be through a “Designated Person” during the first 8 weeks following closure of the complaint, or direct to the Housing Ombudsman Service after this time. Legislation is going through the Parliamentary process in 2021 Draft Building Safety Bill to remove the Designated Person requirements).
How long will it take?
A landlord may set shorter timescales for dealing with complaints, but no process should exceed the following maximum timescales:
- Logging and acknowledgement of complaint – five working days
- Stage one decision – 10 working days from receipt of complaint – if this is not possible, an explanation and a date by when the stage one response should be received. This should not exceed a further 10 days without good reason.
- Stage two response – 20 working days from request to escalate – if this is not possible an explanation and a date when the stage two response will be received. This should not exceed a further 10 working days without good reason
- Stage three response – where a landlord believes this stage is absolutely necessary a response should be sent within 20 working days from request to escalate. Any additional time will only be justified if related to convening a panel. An explanation and a date when the stage three response will be achieved should be provided to the resident.
What is the Housing Ombudsman Service?
The purpose of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme is to enable tenants and other individuals to have complaints about its members investigated by a Housing Ombudsman.
The role of the Housing Ombudsman Service is to resolve disputes involving members of the Scheme, supporting effective landlord/tenant dispute resolution by others, after investigation recommending remedies and when appropriate making awards of compensation.
The Housing Ombudsman Service contains a broad range of guidance and good practice resources for both residents and landlords. It can be accessed here.
You can check if your landlord is a member of the Housing Ombudsman scheme here.
The Housing Ombudsman Service also now publishes details of all the decisions it makes. You can search for decisions made here.
Members of the Ombudsman Scheme, from December 2020, must also prepare and publish a self-assessment of their compliance with their Complaints Handling Code and for the results of this exercise to be published.