Spotlight on Lewis Shand Smith – Ombudsman ServicesMake Text Bigger
Lewis Shand Smith
From 2002 to 2007, Lewis was the Crown appointed Scottish Public Services Deputy Ombudsman and a member of the Executive Board at the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman.
He is a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church and has served congregations in Motherwell, Shetland and Dumfries and was a canon of St Andrew’s Cathedral Aberdeen.
Lewis was a member of the Shetland Islands Council from 1990-1999 and Convener/Leader from 1994-1999. He is a former Vice-President of COSLA (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) and represented theUKon the European Committee of the Regions.
Lewis was Chair of the Management Committee of Shetland College. He has served as a board member or trustee for a number of organisations including Scottish Homes and Dumfries andGallowayCollege. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Lewis joined Ombudsman Services as Chief Ombudsman in 2009.
“What do you perceive to be the main challenges facing the PRS in the next 5 years?”
We can already see the increasingly important role that the private rented sector performs in the UK. We’re becoming not just a nation of home-owners but also of home renters. Over the next five years, while the economy recovers, this is going to be even more evident. There is no longer a place for the well-meaning amateur: this is a job for professionals.
Calls for statutory regulation of the private rented sector are being heard more and more often. While the Government doesn’t currently appear to have the appetite to legislate, it is clear that the current system needs to improve. It is time for the industry to commit to a serious evaluation of what is working well and where improvements could be made. I suggest that it is better for the industry to begin to work together to show that it can effectively self regulate while it still has the opportunity.
The challenge for this sector is to agree a single set of clear industry standards and requirements which can be adopted by everyone. Only in this way can it be shown to families and individuals that renting is a desirable rather than a second-best option.
“What opportunities do you envisage for the PRS in the next 5 years?”
Consumers are getting more savvy in every sector – they are encouraged to know their rights and to expect certain standards. Customers need to know what they are signing up to, what behaviours to expect and what powers they have if things go wrong.
Wouldn’t it be great to have an agreed code of practice which reputable agents can sign up to and agree to abide by? Wouldn’t it be good to compete not only on cost but on the quality of service provided? Wouldn’t it be better to give surety to consumers that professional processes are in place and if things go wrong there is the safety net of the ombudsman?
We give independent and impartial decisions on complaints. We operate with the approval of regulators and work with companies to improve the service to their customers.
How do you see your organisation working with “The GOOD Landlords Campaign“?
At its most basic level renting is an agreement between someone who owns a property and someone who wants to live in it. It’s simple and so should be the understanding of the responsibility each party has to the other. The Deed of Assurance which underpins The GOOD Landlords Campaign clearly sets out what the tenant can expect from the landlord and vice versa. In a sector where clarity might be lacking, this is a fantastic development. We hope that landlords will sign up to The GOOD Landlords Campaign – this is the first step to a better future. I also hope that landlords will go on to provide assurance to their tenants by joining an ombudsman and showing that if things go wrong, the ombudsman is there to help. For such complaints the deed of assurance will provide us with a valuable means of quickly getting to the crux of the problem and then arriving at an appropriate and proportionate solution.
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