Housing Ombudsman publishes Annual Report

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The Housing Ombudsman has a role in resolving disputes including making awards of compensation or other remedies where appropriate. Its latest findings are particularly important for RPs, who are required to be members of the scheme.

Ombudsman’s Role

The Housing Ombudsman is set up by law to consider complaints raised by tenants in relation to their landlord. For some landlord’s it is a legal requirement to participate in the Housing Ombudsman Scheme such as Registered Providers of Social Housing and local authorities.  Others such as private landlord’s may opt into the scheme.

The Ombudsman remit is to resolve disputes involving members of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, including making awards of compensation or other remedies when appropriate, as well as to support effective landlord-tenant dispute resolution. The Localism Act 2011 has given certain ‘designated persons’ a role in dealing with disputes between landlords that are part of the Scheme and residents and for complaints that have not been resolved through the landlord’s procedures to be referred to the Ombudsman.

Members of the Scheme

As of March 2016 a total of 2, 386 landlords were participating in the Scheme representing over 4.5 million housing units. The majority of the members are housing associations representing just under 3 million housing units. 217 members are local authorities representing approximately 1.7 million housing units and 83 voluntary ‘for profit’ landlords or managing agents with approximately 23,000 housing units.

The Scheme is funded by subscription on a per housing unit basis and members for 2015/16  paid £0.96 per unit.

Complaints

In 2015/16 the Ombudsman received 15,984 complaints. Complaints in previous years had risen – 60% since 2012/13 due to the extension of the Ombudsman’s remit to cover local authority landlords. However, the figures now are at a steady level in part due to the Ombudsman role and the sector’s commitment to improve complaint handling reducing the number of complaints.

The categories of complaints for 2015/16 included:

  • Responsive repairs – 37%
  • Tenants’ behaviour – 11%
  • Charges – 8%
  • Other property condition – 7%
  • Moving to a property – 7%
  • Occupancy rights – 5%
  • Estate management – 5%
  • Complaints handling – 5%
  • Compensation – 4%
  • Home Ownership Issues – 3%
  • Governance – 3%
  • Staff – 3%
  • Landlord advice – 2%

The Ombudsman made a determination in 89% of the cases, with 11% falling outside its jurisdiction. It found maladministration in 17% of cases and partial maladministration in 8% of cases. However, in 22% it found no maladministration. Through its varied role it provided redress in 33%, resolved with intervention 5% and 4% were withdrawn.

Lessons for RPs

Whilst the Ombudsman recognises that RPs in the social housing sector have made a commitment to resolving disputes and this is reflected in the number of complaints, it also encourages RPs to do more. For instance the report provides that RPs should look at their own complaints procedures and apply the Ombudsman dispute resolution principles when dealing with complaints to ensure a fair process is followed and the right outcome for tenants is reached.

RPs should also consider their complaints procedure carefully to ensure that they are complying with the consumer standards. These standards are part of the regulatory framework, which the social housing regulator the Homes and Communities Agency enforces. In a previous report by the social housing regulator it was reported that in the same period there was a 16% increase in referrals relating to consumer standards. Failure to comply with the consumer standards may have serious consequences as it may result in an RPs governance viability being reviewed and potentially downgraded.

Forbes Solicitors regularly assist RPs with a range of governance and regulatory matters including reviewing policies and complying with the regulatory framework. If you would like advice on any governance or regulatory matter, please contact Daniel Milnes.

Nat Avdiu

About Nat Avdiu

Nat Avdiu is a Paralegal in the Contracts and Projects team at Forbes Solicitors. Nat provides updates for clients on a range of issues including: governance, data protection and freedom of information, procurement and charity law.
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