The Housing Ombudsman has published its new Complaint Handling Code in preparation for its assumption of greater powers at the end of the year.
The code provides the future framework for complaint handling by social landlords and aims to introduce greater consistency across landlords’ complaint procedures. It also intended to create a ‘resident-focused process’ that makes it easier for tenants to make complaints about their landlords.
The code creates a universal definition of a complaint and introduces a two-stage structure for the complaints procedure with clear timeframes set out for responses.
Landlords will be asked to self-assess against the code by 31 December 2020 and publish the results.
Non-compliance could result in the Ombudsman issuing complaint handling failure orders. Guidance on these new orders was also published today and will be implemented from 1 January 2021.
Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway said: “The code responds to resident concerns about the consistency and accessibility of complaint procedures. An effective complaints process will help to create a positive complaint handling culture, benefitting both landlord staff and residents.
“Complaints should have an important strategic role within landlord organisations, providing vital intelligence on their health, performance and reputation. On that basis, we hope the Code is welcomed by the sector as a tool for supporting excellence.”
The revised Ombudsman Scheme, which was approved by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government in March, includes:
• A new power that allows the Ombudsman to issue complaint handling failure orders when a complaint gets stuck in the landlord’s process or where landlords do not provide evidence requested by the Ombudsman in a timely manner.
• A ‘severe maladministration’ finding to clarify the range of determinations from service failure to maladministration to severe maladministration, together with a requirement for the landlord to demonstrate learning after the Ombudsman’s decision.
• A more proactive approach in identifying possible systemic failure and to undertake further investigation either into an individual landlord or sector-wide issues. “Any systemic failing found would be referred to the Regulator of Social Housing, as part of a broadening range of closer working processes between the two organisations.”
• Developing a new complaint handling code to achieve greater consistency across landlords’ complaint procedures.
The new code and guidance can be accessed from the following links: