Housing Ombudsman orders social housing landlords to improve complaint handling

Housing Ombudsman orders social housing landlords to improve complaint handling

9:42 AM, 21st November 2023, About 2 weeks ago

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The Housing Ombudsman has revealed that it issued 52 orders to social housing landlords for failing to handle complaints properly in the last quarter.

This is the highest number since the Ombudsman started publishing its reports in 2021.

The orders, known as Complaint Handling Failure Orders (CHFOs), are given to social housing landlords who do not comply with the Complaint Handling Code or the Ombudsman’s Scheme.

They aim to help landlords improve their complaint resolution and identify any issues that could affect the experience of their residents.

‘Orders help landlords resolve complaints themselves’

Richard Blakeway, the Housing Ombudsman, said: “These orders help landlords resolve complaints themselves, so that residents trust the process and social landlords deliver the most positive and effective complaints experience of any sector.

“It is exceptional for us to issue a failure order and every one comes after several attempts to engage the landlord.

“The increase in the number we are issuing will be a key focus of ours as we receive our Duty to Monitor powers when the Complaint Handling Code becomes statutory next year.”

He added: “It is encouraging to see the level of non-compliance with orders reduce.

“This shows that although a landlord has not initially responded, the weight of the order brings them into an effective response.”

Social housing landlord did not progress the complaint

The most common reason for issuing a CHFO was that the social housing landlord did not progress the complaint through their own procedure or did not provide evidence to the Ombudsman to support an investigation.

However, the Ombudsman also noted a positive trend of decreasing non-compliance, from 42% in the previous quarter to 27% in the current one.

The Ombudsman also reported that it achieved 100% compliance with the orders that it set out to landlords after an investigation.

But it expressed concern over the increase in the number of CHFOs issued to force the landlord to provide evidence that they had put things right for the resident following an investigation.

In some cases, the Ombudsman had to intervene AGAIN on new complaints from the same landlord.

‘Orders have been issued to landlords where concerns have been raised’

Mr Blakeway said: “There are two clear themes from this report. Firstly, orders have been issued to landlords where concerns have been raised following our formal investigations and we’ve been assured changes are being made.

“Yet these orders relate to new complaints they were handling within the last three months. This indicates there may be more work for them to do.

“Secondly, where orders have not been complied with, landlords have often mentioned staff shortages.”

He added: “I have long made the case that the executive needs to ensure that complaints teams are adequately resourced, as there is no evidence complaint volumes are going to reduce in the short-term.”

Housing Ombudsman has written to the social housing landlords

The Housing Ombudsman has written to the social housing landlords who received more than one non-compliant CHFO, and named them in the report. They are:

  • Falcon Housing Association C.I.C
  • Southward Housing Cooperative
  • Oxford City Council
  • Housing for Women (4 CHFOs)
  • Wilfrid East London Housing Cooperative
  • Poplar HARCA
  • Warwick District Council
  • London Borough of Barking and Dagenham
  • Metropolitan Thames Valley
  • RHP
  • Polish Retired Persons Housing Association.

The Ombudsman has also added a new section to the report, sharing the learning from these cases in more detail, so that other landlords can avoid making the same mistakes.

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