Statement on cross-sector Housing Ombudsman consultation 

We welcome the Secretary of State's announcement that there will be a consultation on options to improve redress across the housing sector, one option being to create a single housing ombudsman to cover the social and private rented sector as well as new-build homes. While we are the only ombudsman dealing with social housing complaints, we also consider complaints about those private landlords who are voluntary members of our scheme and we are in favour of extending access to redress across the sector.

We have previously called for an expansion of our remit into the private sector in our response to the draft Public Services Ombudsman (PSO) Bill where we also highlighted the potential to combine existing ombudsmen in the housing and property sectors into one scheme. 

We agree that there are barriers to using our service, notably the designated person arrangements introduced by the Localism Act, and also raised this in our response to the draft PSO Bill. We are currently consulting the sector as part of our business planning about how those arrangements are working and how they might be improved. We look forward to responding to the Secretary of State's proposed consultation in due course. 

David Connolly, Interim Housing Ombudsman

30 November 2017

Housing Ombudsman launches consultation on plans for 2018-19 

The Housing Ombudsman has published a consultation paper seeking views and insight from landlords and residents to help inform its plans for 2018-19.

The paper provides a review of the year 2017-18 up to the end of September which shows year on year improvement in casework performance including:

  • 100% of cases in our formal remit determined within 12 months
  • Customer feedback targets exceeded
  • 80% of complaints closed without the need for a formal investigation
  • Average case time on determinations reducing and further improvements expected in the second half of the year.

As set out in the 2017-18 Business Plan the Ombudsman’s intention is to keep the subscription fee at the same level of £1.25 per unit in 2018-19. However, the consultation will help identify further improvements to the service within the resources available.  

Interim Housing Ombudsman David Connolly said: “It is important that we take into account the views and insights of all our stakeholders in planning our service for next year. We want to hear the views of both landlords and residents to help us develop different aspects of our service including better access, supporting the local resolution of complaints, increasing transparency and improving efficiency. We recognise that the changing housing landscape brings challenges for the sector so we want to ensure that our service continues to support landlords and residents in resolving disputes and helps to improve complaint handling and housing services.”

The final Business Plan for 2018-19 will reflect the feedback received during the consultation.

The consultation is open until 22 December. Details of how to respond are set out in the consultation paper

15 November 2017

Annual Report and Accounts 2016-17 published 

The Housing Ombudsman’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2016-17, published today, shows continuous improvement in the service with increased productivity and high levels of customer satisfaction.

In 2016-17 we received 15,112 complaints and new enquiries, and closed 15,877. Our focus on supporting local resolution of disputes between the complainant and landlord resulted in 81% of cases received being closed without the need for a formal investigation. This helps to ensure issues are resolved at the earliest opportunity and prevent them from escalating.

There was an 18% increase in cases that went forward into the Ombudsman’s formal remit for investigation, which are the most complex and difficult to resolve. The number of complaints formally determined increased by 50% from the previous year to 1,649. Despite the increase in these cases, determination times significantly improved with 96% of cases determined within 12 months compared to 59% in 2015-16.

David Connolly, Interim Housing Ombudsman from 5 June 2017, said: “The improvements in our service reflect the dedication and hard work of our staff. Through their efforts we have made a difference for many complainants and we have played our part in supporting the sector to improve complaints handling and develop their services."

The casework performance highlights show:

  • More cases closed than received: 15,877 closed compared to 15,112 received
  • Focus on local resolution maintained: 81% of complaints were closed without a formal investigation
  • Customer feedback exceeded all targets: overall 89% of customers thought we treated them well and 75% thought we helped
  • 50% more determinations issued than last year: 1,649 compared to 1,101
  • 96% of cases determined within 12 months, an increase from 59% in 2015-16
  • Exceeded the target on landlords’ compliance with orders: 99.6% implemented

The Annual Report and Accounts for 2016-17 is available here.

13 July 2017

Memorandum of Understanding with the Regulator of Social Housing signed 

The Housing Ombudsman Denise Fowler has today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Homes and Communities Agency’s Regulator of Social Housing setting out how the two bodies work with each other.

The MoU sets out how the Ombudsman informs the Regulator of potential systemic issues relating to compliance with the Regulator’s standards. It also confirms how the Regulator signposts tenants, or their representatives, who are seeking resolution of individual complaints, to the Ombudsman.

For more information on our roles see the Working with the regulator page.

21 April 2017

Response to the Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill 

The Ombudsman has published her response to the Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill.

The Bill, which would establish a single Ombudsman to take on the functions of the Local Government Ombudsman and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, has provision for the Housing Ombudsman to be incorporated in the future.

The written response follows Denise’s evidence to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee in March available here

Details of the initial consultation in 2015 on the creation of a new Public Services Ombudsman are below including the Housing Ombudsman’s response. Following the consultation, the government decided that the Housing Ombudsman should not join the scheme, at least initially.

20 April 2017

Housing Ombudsman Denise Fowler to take on new role 

Denise Fowler will be leaving her role as Housing Ombudsman in June 2017 to join Women’s Pioneer Housing as its new chief executive.

Since her appointment as Housing Ombudsman in March 2015 Denise has led transformational change at the Housing Ombudsman Service, increasing the number of complaints investigated in year by over 50% and removing an inherited backlog of old cases. Using a results-based accountability framework to drive change, Denise has seen customer satisfaction rates from both landlords and complainants rise significantly.

She said: ‘I am very proud of all I have achieved as Housing Ombudsman over the last two years with the support of my colleagues. For the next three months I will continue to focus on my role as Housing Ombudsman.

‘Having just completed an extensive consultation exercise with the sector on our business plan for 2017-18, I will work with the team and the Department for Communities and Local Government (our sponsor department) to ensure that the Housing Ombudsman Service can continue to provide an excellent service to landlords and tenants, and help drive up standards across the housing sector.

‘I then look forward to starting an exciting new challenge in June. I could not pass up the opportunity of leading Women’s Pioneer, an organisation with such a unique history and such potential to do so much for women in need of housing in London. Providing a voice for women’s housing is as relevant today as it was in 1920.’

During the next three months if any complaints against Women’s Pioneer are brought to the Ombudsman they will be dealt with by members of the Ombudsman’s team and Denise will have no personal involvement. 

24 February 2017

Housing Ombudsman launches consultation on 2017-18 plans and budget

The Housing Ombudsman Denise Fowler has published a consultation paper on her proposed plans and budget for 2017-18, including the level of subscription fee, plus an update on performance for the current year.

The paper sets out the improvements made to the service this year resulting in significant operating efficiencies. Staff productivity has increased considerably so the number of complaints closed per caseworker has increased from 198 to 207. In addition:

  • the service is on track to issue around 1,400 determinations by March 2017, a 30% increase on 2015-16
  • the backlog of cases over 12 months old has been eliminated
  • average case times for investigation and determination are reducing and expected to be around 8 months by March 2017, down from 9.5 months last year
  • 100% of the Ombudsman’s orders are implemented within three months
  • 95% of participants taking part in our training and support for landlords say it has helped them improve their approach to dispute resolution.

In 2017-18 productivity and efficiency gains are expected to continue as new ways of working and new systems and tools are introduced. But the service is also expecting an increase in complaints of 10% overall and a 20% increase in the number which require investigation under the Ombudsman’s formal remit.

The plan for next year, informed by feedback already received from landlords and complainants and to be finalised following consultation, is to set a subscription fee of £1.25 per housing unit to enable the Housing Ombudsman Service to:

  • reduce average case times further
  • do more work with landlords to address potential systemic problems
  • continue work with both landlords and residents to improve local actions that will benefit both
  • continue work to resolve complaints early.

The consultation seeks views on the proposed service, including the balance of activity between casework resolution and sector development, and the fee.

The outcome of the consultation will inform the Ombudsman’s business plan which is then submitted to the Secretary of State who must approve any increase in the subscription fee.

Denise Fowler said: “Our vision of ‘Housing Matters: Fairness Matters’ underpins everything we do and has enabled us to deliver continuous improvements in our service.

“We know that landlords and residents continue to face new challenges and we want to support them effectively to resolve disputes and drive up housing standards. Our work helps ensure the provision of high quality homes and services across England. We aim to role model the service we expect of others so, just as we expect landlords to seek the views of tenants in designing their services, it is important that we take into account the views and insight of all our stakeholders in planning our own service and budget.”

See the consultation paper including information on how to respond here. 

12 January 2017

Housing Ombudsman's Annual Report and Accounts 2015-16 published

The Housing Ombudsman has published her Annual Report and Accounts 2015-16.

The report sets out a year of significant change and positive achievement. The Housing Ombudsman, Denise Fowler, has led an organisational review that is transforming the organisation with a new strategy based on her vision, Housing Matters: Fairness Matters.

In 2015-16, we dealt with 16,166 complaints and enquiries, more than ever before. Productivity increased significantly resulting in more cases being closed during the year than were received. 

We aim to ensure the fair resolution of housing complaints, locally if possible. We work with landlords and residents to resolve individual complaints within the landlord’s complaint procedure. If things go wrong we aim to put them right and to encourage learning from outcomes. Our work with landlords and residents facilitates improvements to complaint handling and service delivery.

In 2015-16, 81% of the complaints we received were concluded without requiring a formal determination. We saw significant improvements in many landlords’ approaches to complaint handling.  

At the same time, our speed and efficiency in dealing with cases requiring formal investigation and determination increased by 68%. In 2015-16, 976 cases were determined within the Ombudsman’s formal jurisdiction compared to 579 the previous year. This has enabled us to clear a historical backlog of older cases.

We have received excellent feedback from customers. Where we supported the local resolution of complaints 88% of customers said they were treated well. Where we determined the case after completion of the landlord’s procedure 82% said they were treated well.

The Housing Ombudsman, Denise Fowler, said: “My priority has been to ensure that we provide the best possible service for our customers. I am very proud of the team’s achievements. In implementing our new vision Housing Matters; Fairness Matters, we sought to recognise the central importance of housing to people’s lives and the need to ensure that any disputes are dealt with fairly and effectively.

“This year we dealt with more disputes than ever before and cleared a historical backlog of cases. 2015/16 has been a year of safeguarding and building. We will continue to develop our organisation over the next year to deliver a high quality service to all our customers. We aim to role model the service we expect of others.”

15 July 2016 

Housing Ombudsman publishes Corporate Plan 2016 to 2019

The Housing Ombudsman has published her Corporate Plan 2016 to 2019 setting out how we will work towards achieving the new vision and strategic objectives.                                 

Launched earlier this year, the new vision, Housing Matters: Fairness Matters, recognises the central importance of housing in people’s lives and our role in ensuring the fair resolution of disputes. 

This vision, the new strategic objectives and core values, were developed with staff and stakeholders, including landlords and tenant organisations. Together they provide a framework for the Housing Ombudsman Service to deliver continuous service improvement for the benefit of our customers.

For full details see our Corporate Plan 2016 to 2019.

Housing Ombudsman updates the Committee on her work

On 18 January 2016, the Housing Ombudsman, Denise Fowler, appeared before the DCLG Select Committee to update it on progress made since her appointment.  Watch Parliament TV: Housing Ombudsman

A number of landlords and stakeholders also submitted written evidence to the Committee (click here).

We are grateful to the stakeholders concerned for it shows the esteem in which the work of the organisation is held within the social housing sector.

Housing Ombudsman welcomes plans for a new Public Service Ombudsman

The Housing Ombudsman welcomes the Government’s announcement today to introduce a new Public Service Ombudsman and to keep the Housing Ombudsman Service as a separate entity. The Housing Ombudsman looks forward in due course to working with the new Public Services Ombudsman.

The announcement brings to an end a period of uncertainty. We can now plan for the future with renewed vigour. The Housing Ombudsman has just launched her new vision ‘Housing Matters: Fairness Matters’, through which we are planning a range of improvements to our service. Our aim is to ensure the fair resolution of housing complaints, locally if possible, to put things right and encourage learning from outcomes to improve housing services. We aim to role model the service we expect from others.

Our surveys of tenants and landlords show high levels of satisfaction with the service, both in terms of the help we provide and the way we treat them. This was reflected in landlords and tenants organisations’ evidence to the Government’s consultation on the Public Service Ombudsman, which expressed substantial support for an independent Housing Ombudsman.

The Government response to the consultation on the Public Service Ombudsman can be found here.


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