The Housing Ombudsman and the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) have launched their aligned Complaint Handling Codes which will result in best practice in complaint handling and ultimately better services for residents.
Following the Social Housing (Regulation) Act, the Housing Ombudsman’s Code will become statutory from 1st April 2024, providing a single, robust set of standards for complaints procedures to be accessible, fair and efficient.
There will be a legal duty placed on the Ombudsman to monitor compliance with the Code, regardless of whether it receives individual complaints from residents about a landlord. For the first time, this means landlords will need to submit their self-assessment annually to the Ombudsman at the same time as their Tenant Satisfaction Measures (TSMs).
For landlords with over 1,000 homes this will be 30th June 2024. Those with under 1,000 homes will submit either 12 weeks after their financial year-end or the date of publication of TSMs on their website.
The self-assessment must also be published on their websites so that residents are able to easily access it.
More than 600 individuals or organisations responded to the Code consultation, with strong support amongst residents and landlords for the provisions in the Code. The Code is similar to the one which was first introduced almost 4 years ago but it is crucial that every landlord examines the final statutory Code to ensure its approach to complaints is compliant.
The statutory Code is being introduced at a time of high demand for redress, with another substantial rise in complaints to the Ombudsman over the previous year. The Code aims to achieve earlier resolution of complaints by the landlord itself, and it has produced new guidance and measures to help landlords implement the Code, alongside the e-learning and support available through the Ombudsman’s Centre for Learning.
This includes an ongoing series of free webinars to give landlords the opportunity to hear more about the Code and to ask any questions.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “This statutory Code promotes a positive complaints culture across the social housing sector and ensures residents do not experience a postcode lottery in complaint handling.
“We welcome the positive engagement with the Code and its aims during our consultation, and it is crucial this is translated into action on ground. It is essential for landlords prepare for the statutory Code and this includes a robust self-assessment being submitted to the Ombudsman.
“We’ve also heard loud and clear through this consultation that there is a vital need to provide more resource to complaint handling staff at landlords and we are also committed to providing more opportunities through our Centre for Learning to help landlords implement the Code.
“The aim of the Code is to improve local complaint handling amidst us seeing yet again a huge rise in the volumes of complaints coming to us. Landlords should be using the Code to improve their complaint handling and reducing the number of complaints being upheld by us.
“Unfortunately throughout our casework we are seeing poor complaint handling practices, from delays and lack of empathy to no responses at all.
“Landlords should see the release of this Code as an opportunity to reflect on their complaint handling and to make improvements where necessary to deliver better services to residents.”
Centre for Learning webinar sessions
Local Authority and ALMO
Date: 21 February 2024
Housing Associations with over 1000 homes
Date: 7 March 2024
Date: 20 March 2024
Small landlords and Abbeyfields
Date: 4 April 2024