Housing Ombudsman reports increase in cases upheld in 2020-21

The proportion of cases upheld by the Housing Ombudsman increased to 49% in 2020-21, up from 41% the year before, it has emerged.

The Ombudsman also made 3,455 orders and recommendations to put things right for residents during the 12 months, more than any recent year and up from 2,617 in 2019-20.

In its Annual Report 2020-21 the service said complaint volumes had initially reduced and then far exceeded previous levels by the end of the year.

At the start of the year, as the first Covid lockdown came into place, the number of enquiries and complaints received fell by 50% in April 2020 compared to the previous year.

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Volumes made a steady recovery and by March 2021, the number had increased by 155% compared to March 2020.

For cases in the Ombudsman’s formal remit, the number decreased by 16% in April 2020 compared to the previous year and then increased over the year with a 98% increase in March 2021.

The Ombudsman identified the following key performance highlights: 

  • More cases were determined than in the prior year with 63% of cases completed within six months (2019-20: 42%).
  • A new Complaint Handling Code was published, “providing a framework for high-quality complaint handling and greater consistency across landlords’ complaint procedures”.
  • The first complaint handling failure orders, where complaints are not progressing through landlords’ complaints procedures, were issued.
  • A 600 member Resident Panel was recruited and quarterly Meet the Ombudsman events were launched.
  • Transparency was increased with the publication of landlord performance reports and publication of Ombudsman’s determinations every two weeks.
  • The Ombudsman’s framework for systemic investigation was published. In-depth investigations were undertaken into complaints from leaseholders and shared owners and heating and hot water. 

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “I am immensely proud of how colleagues responded during Covid-19 and their hard work over the year. Their achievements are tremendous given all the disruptions and challenges of Covid, remote working and progressing investigations as landlords and residents experienced several national lockdowns. We successfully introduced widespread changes that have transformed our role as an Ombudsman. We are now more agile, proactive and relevant to the sector. 

“We have set out even more ambitious plans for our next three year corporate plan reflecting how our role has changed and responding to the continued increase in complaints. The plan reinforces the changing role and importance of complaint handling. It sets out ways we will work across the sector to strengthen complaint handling at a local level, sharing learning to improve services and residents’ experiences, and potentially prevent issues arising.” 

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