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Ombudsman plans systemic investigation into record keeping as latest cases published

12 July 2022

Poor record keeping features among the latest decisions published by the Housing Ombudsman. Strong record keeping practices are core to good services and will be the focus of a future systemic investigation by the Ombudsman with the aim of making recommendations and sharing learning across the social housing sector.  

Poor record keeping features among the latest decisions published by the Housing Ombudsman. Strong record keeping practices are core to good services and will be the focus of a future systemic investigation with the aim of making recommendations and sharing learning across the social housing sector.

Also included among the decisions is our first case to be published involving a joint investigation into two landlords and two sets of orders, using powers in its new Scheme.

The decisions, published every two weeks, now total more than 2,000 and show the range of issues we can consider as well as the type of outcomes following an investigation. The landlord in each case is identified. Among the decisions published are:

  • Our first joint investigation published by the Ombudsman involving two landlords and two sets of orders for Plymouth Community Homes (PCH) and Guinness (ref 202012435). We found that PCH gave misinformation about the residents’ tenancy before and after a mutual exchange so they thought they had Preserved Right to Buy. It was due to an error on PCH’s computer system which it was aware of and took ten years to correct, so may have caused problems to other PCH residents. Guinness had relied on the information but also made further errors in its communication with the residents.
  • A finding of maladministration in an L&Q case (ref 201916247) for its record keeping and complaint handling. The landlord failed to keep robust records in a complaint about the end of a resident’s tenancy and his deposit following a bereavement which led to additional distress and inconvenience. We ordered the landlord to review its record keeping processes and its staff training needs.
  • A case concerning Stonewater (ref 201915252) and redress for reports of an inadequate water supply, rent arrears and its complaint handling. We found maladministration for the landlord’s repeated failure to open a complaint over more than two years so there was no record to keep track of events, resulting in delays to the repairs and resolving the complaint. During this time the resident was effectively prevented from accessing the landlord’s complaints procedure.
  • A Dudley Council case (ref 202015427) concerning major works and a resident’s request for additional information. The landlord acknowledged it had not notified leaseholders when it became apparent that the work would result in additional costs, for which it apologised, and confirmed it had limited information available on the requirement to carry out the works in the first place as requested by the resident. We found the landlord had offered a reasonable remedy for its acknowledged failures by reducing its charges and recommended that it review the case to identify where it can improve communication and record keeping with respect to major works carried out at leasehold properties, in particular ensuring that residents are notified of significant changes to plans and that supporting documents are retained for an appropriate length of time.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “These cases show the human consequences of poor record keeping, as well as the organisational consequences.

“Strong record keeping practices are core to good services. The poor practice of some landlord services can be a direct result of poor information and intelligence and landlords need to be more alert to the risks. There will be few landlords we have investigated where, at some point, poor records and information have not resulted in maladministration. Inadequate record keeping has also been repeatedly identified in Spotlight reports, from cladding to damp, as a driver of poor service.

“This is a systemic, sector-wide issue. Governing bodies should be asking ‘how good is our record keeping’ and if the response is ‘good’ they should be troubled because it is possible the landlord may not know how bad it is.

“There are real benefits for services by getting record keeping right. To support landlords, we intend to carry out an investigation on record keeping, with the aim of publishing a Spotlight report next year.”

A major step in increasing our transparency, the decisions provide an ever-expanding resource to promote learning in the social housing sector and demonstrate the difference complaints can make for individual residents and wider benefit.

Details of what, when and how we publish are set out in our publication policy. As well as decisions we also publish performance data reports on individual landlords as part of our increasing transparency.

See all decisions.

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