According to the Housing Ombudsman, of the 23 complaints that were filed between April and June this year, five landlords were found to have been non-compliant on six cases.
Housing associations Abri, Housing for Women, and A2Dominion, along with the Lambeth Council and Greenwich Council, failed to follow the new complaint handling code published by the Housing Ombudsman Service in July 2020 and implemented last March 2021. The Code standardised the complaint handling process across different sectors in efforts to help landlords immediately respond to and resolve tenants’ complaints.
In the quarterly report that came out in July 2021, the Housing Ombudsman indicated each of the landlords’ non-compliance. Abri has two type 2 orders, which means there were unreasonable delays in accomplishing the information that the ombudsman requested.
Housing for Women, A2Dominion, Lambeth Council, and Greenwich Council were issued with type 1 orders, indicating an unreasonable delay in the acceptance and progress of complaints according to process.
Although Housing for Women eventually communicated with the complainant, it was done only after repeated failures to do so. Additionally, the reason for contacting the tenant was for a different matter – one that was completely unrelated to the initial complaint.
A2Dominion’s case involved complaint escalation, which it failed to do even after an allotted four-month-period. After a delay in communicating with the resident, the landlord also failed to follow through with the orders of the ombudsman.
Lambeth Council is in a similar situation as this is already their second consecutive non-compliance with complaints and ombudsman’s orders. The landlord has received several complaints from a tenant that they did not respond to.
The housing ombudsman service complaint handling code
The Housing Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code was created to help landlords in two ways:
- To allow them to address complaints from their tenants in the fastest time possible
- To use these complaints as opportunities to assess and improve their services, particularly in relation to meeting the Complaint Handling Code
If a landlord is able to respond to issues immediately after learning about them, they can resolve the problem without the tenant having to file a housing disrepair claim. There are indications for certain situations as well, such as when the resident decides to push through with the complaint if they are dissatisfied with how the issue was resolved.
According to the ombudsman, the Complaint Handling Code intends to help landlords understand how the way they handle complaints will impact their tenants.
New guidance for board members and councillors
The Housing Ombudsman’s latest quarterly report came with a new guidance addressed to board members and councillors, so they may find ways to improve their involvement in creating a positive complaints culture among organisations.
Included in the guidance are the details of expectations from governing bodies, the value of complaint information in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of delivering their services, and the best industry practices.
Response from landlords
Despite the five landlords’ failure to comply with the orders, the ombudsman believes most landlords have positively responded to the issuing orders. As proof of this, representatives from the non-compliant landlords expressed their gratitude to the ombudsman for giving them the opportunity to check and improve their complaint-handling process and their overall services.
Housing for Women CEO Zaiba Qureshi gave an assurance that they are committed to working with the ombudsman and improving their complaint-handling processes by embracing the best practices. Qureshi also agreed that their complaint-handling and communication processes need improvement and they have already identified which areas they have to work on.
A2Dominion Director of Transformation and Customer Experience Gary Blatcher said their case was different because the tenant who filed the complaint already decided to take legal action, so their only contact was with the complainant’s solicitors. Nevertheless, they are committed to discussing possible solutions with the ombudsman.
Abri’s Director of Optimisation and Business Improvement Sarah Allen revealed that although they made sure their processes and policies followed the new code, they still failed to immediately respond to their tenants. Allen attributed the mistake to human error. Abri has opened an internal investigation to address the root cause of the issue and is working closely with the Housing Ombudsman.
Why landlords should respond to tenant repair requests
Disrepair in the home is a major concern for tenants. When left unattended, it can make the property unlivable and affect the health and mental well-being of residents. As a tenant, your responsibility is to inform your landlord about the disrepair as soon as you have verified the issue. Photos, videos, audio files, and other documents that show proof of the issue must be given to the landlord, and copies should be kept as these can be used when you decide to file a disrepair claim.
If your landlord fails to respond after 21 days, you can file a report or complaint with the local authorities. You can cite failure to comply with the Complaint-Handling Code as the main issue. The best thing to do, however, is to get in touch with the housing disrepair claim experts at DisrepairClaim.co.uk, a team that knows how to help tenants whose landlords refuse to respond despite the Housing Ombudsman’s orders.