Case Study 41: Complaint handling - Locally resolved

Mr W contacted the Ombudsman to complain about how his landlord had dealt with his reports that his property was unsafe, and about how it had dealt with his reports of anti-social behaviour. He told us that he had tried to make a formal complaint about these matters but had been able to do so.  

The background to this complaint was that the landlord had served a Notice of Seeking Possession in response reports of anti-social behaviour by Mr W. The court subsequently awarded a Possession Order to the landlord, which Mr W appealed against. However when Mr W attended the court hearing to consider his appeal he withdrew his defence and agreed to leave the property.

During this period, Mr W had also been trying to make a complaint using the landlord’s formal complaints procedure. It had told him that it would not consider a complaint whilst the legal proceedings were on-going. However once the legal proceedings were concluded, the landlord again refused to consider a complaint, on the basis that Mr W had been given previous opportunities to discuss his concerns, including a meeting that he did not attend, and that he had also had the opportunity to raise his concerns in court.

As the landlord would not accept a complaint Mr W then contacted the Ombudsman. Following discussion with us, the landlord agreed to reconsider its position. It subsequently reviewed the case and wrote to us to explain its findings. It noted that its own lawyer had advised that it could deal with Mr W’s request to make a complaint, regardless of the on-going legal action, but that this advice had not been acted upon at the time. It also acknowledged that whilst there will be occasions in which the decision to accept a complaint for investigation could jeopardise an on-going legal process, this had not been such a case.

The landlord also noted that it had taken the view that the court action superseded its own complaints process, but that in reality the processes were separate and Mr W’s complaint could have highlighted matters that could not be considered by the court, such as queries or comments that related to the landlord’s own procedures and staff. Having taken all the facts into consideration, the landlord decided that its  decision not to accept a complaint from Mr W had been incorrect. It therefore agreed to accept Mr W’s complaint and investigate the specific issues he had raised.  This was a fair outcome for Mr W. The landlord also made a number of general recommendations for service improvements to prevent the situation happening again. It therefore demonstrated that it had learnt from this complaint.