New powers in the revised Housing Ombudsman Scheme that takes effect from today (1 September) will help improve awareness, accessibility and speed of complaint resolution. It also enables the Ombudsman to be more proactive on systemic issues and broadens the basis on which we can refer cases to the Regulator of Social Housing.
The updated Scheme includes:
- A new Complaint Handling Code, published in July, setting out clear expectations for landlords on handling housing complaints including the need for self-assessments against the Code by 31 December 2020. A series of webinars on the Code will continue over the autumn
- A new power to issue complaint handling failure orders which could relate to the handling of an individual case or the landlord’s overall complaint-handling policy. These orders will be formally issued from 1 January 2021
- The ability to conduct systemic or thematic investigations beyond an individual complaint or landlord. A framework for these investigations will be published later this year.
The basis of referrals of cases from the Ombudsman to the Regulator of Social Housing has also been broadened to include repeated complaint handling failure or potential systemic failure. The memorandum of understanding between the two organisations has been updated to enable this alongside agreement on sharing more information. This includes notifying the Regulator on findings of severe maladministration, where an investigation raises a potential breach of a regulatory standard, details of non-compliance with orders and on complaint handling failures.
Richard Blakeway, the Housing Ombudsman, said: “These fundamental changes to our powers will help to improve the accessibility, speed and scope of redress for the benefit of residents. Broadening the scope of issues we can refer to the regulator will make this even more effective and builds on our strong working relationship.”
Fiona MacGregor, Chief Executive, Regulator of Social Housing, said: “We value the good relationship we have with the Housing Ombudsman and welcome this opportunity to further strengthen it and to work together to further protect social housing tenants.”
The Housing Ombudsman Scheme governs how the service works, setting out the matters that can and cannot be considered within our role. The changes to the Scheme followed consultation with the sector when they received strong support.