The Housing Ombudsman is the last port of call for when communication breaks down following a complaints procedure. They are responsible for working out if a complaint made to a housing association or a local authority has been dealt with fairly.
When problems have been resolved fairly, the ombudsman, made up of social housing experts, can explain why a certain path of action has been taken.
If it hasn’t been dealt with fairly, then they can recommend actions that can be taken to sort out the issue.
Steps to the ombudsman
When things go wrong during a social tenancy, you’re within your rights to make a complaint to your landlord. Usually this results in a repair being undertaken or some other sort of appropriate resolution. Here are the steps you should take:
- On your landlord’s website there should be a link to make a formal complaint. If it’s not there, then the information should be in your tenant handbook
- Sometimes things don’t go as they should and the result of a complaint might not go in your favour. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, the next step is to contact a councillor, MP or the tenant panel for your landlord
- If these services cannot help you then they can refer you to the Housing Ombudsman. You can also contact the ombudsman anonymously for advice on your situation or go to them directly – but only 8 weeks after your landlord has given their final response on a complaint
Nearly all housing providers in the UK follow the Housing Ombudsman ‘Code of Practice’. This means that if the ombudsman gets in contact with a housing provider, they will consider the case quickly and reply promptly.
How the Housing Ombudsman resolves disputes
The first principle of any ombudsman is to treat all people in a disagreement fairly, using a structured approach.
Put things right
When an ombudsman offers its recommendation, it’s done so after fully considering the facts in each case. They will use their expertise in social housing to suggest resolutions that can be achieved. It’s very rare that a housing provider doesn’t follow the recommendations of the Housing Ombudsman.
Learn from outcomes
It’s one thing to deal with complaints and recommend how to resolve individual cases. But in order to make things better for everyone, it’s really important to learn what mistakes were made and then share with all housing providers how the same problem can be avoided in the future.
Things are changing
In December, for the first time the Housing Ombudsman published how each landlord dealt with complaints. This information is free to access. The aim of making it public is to show residents whether a housing association has dealt with complaints well in comparison to other landlords of the same size and shape. It’s also there to help housing providers understand and compare how they are doing and improve their services.
This is one of many new changes to protect residents and improve housing provider services that are either starting now or set to be announced over the coming year. This is all down to the publication of the Charter for Social Housing Residents, a government White Paper that announced that changes for the better were going to be made to how social housing is delivered.
If you or somebody you know has exhausted all other avenues for getting a problem resolved, then this is where to go to lodge a complaint with the Housing Ombudsman.