- The purpose of Type 1 and Type 2 complaint handling failure orders (CHFOs) is to ensure that a landlord’s complaint handling process is accessible, consistent and enables the timely progression of complaints for residents, in line with the Housing Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code.
- This guidance sets out when a Type 1 or Type 2 CHFO may be issued, what further action the Ombudsman could take in such circumstances, and the reporting, including publication, of those issued.
- A CHFO may be issued in relation to failings in an individual case, where the Ombudsman has taken reasonable steps to seek engagement from a landlord, but the resident remains unable to progress a complaint through the landlord’s process – this is a Type 1 CHFO.
- A CHFO may also be issued on an individual case where the landlord has failed to provide information, either at the outset of, or during, an investigation or to confirm compliance with our orders, to the Ombudsman as requested – this is a Type 2 CHFO.
- A Type 3 CHFO may be issued following assessment by the Ombudsman through duty to monitor activities. Please refer to our guidance on the website for full details.
- In all cases the Ombudsman will provide a landlord with details of the presenting issue and provide an opportunity for the landlord to rectify this before a complaint handling failure order is made.
- The Ombudsman will publish details of CHFOs issued on a quarterly basis, including type, landlord names and whether the order was complied with. This information will also be reported to the Regulator for Social Housing.
- Failure to take the action specified in a complaint handling failure order could result in the Ombudsman taking further action such as referrals to the landlord’s governing body or the Regulator of Social Housing, ordering the landlord to publish details of its failure to comply and/or publishing a special report on the landlord’s non-compliance.
Paragraphs 9-12 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme set out the membership obligations to which all landlords must adhere. The intent of these obligations is:
- to improve member landlord’s internal complaints processes to ensure early resolution of disputes
- to increase resident confidence by enabling access to complaints procedures
- to establish consistent standards of practice across the housing sector
to ensure that residents can access the Housing Ombudsman Service if they remain dissatisfied with their landlord’s response to their complaint. Paragraphs 13-15 of the Scheme set out the power and steps the Ombudsman can take if a landlord is failing to comply with their membership obligations. One of these steps is to issue, and publish, a CHFO.
Type 1 CHFO – where an individual complaint is not being progressed through the landlord’s complaint process
Complaints must be accepted and addressed by landlords and not unreasonably categorised as an enquiry, service request or feedback. The Complaint Handling Code defines a complaint as:
‘an expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions or lack of action by the organisation, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf, affecting an individual resident or group of residents’
If a resident presents an issue to a landlord which qualifies as a complaint, they must be given the opportunity to raise a complaint.
If a resident has trouble raising or progressing their complaint and the Ombudsman is satisfied that the complaints process has stalled, the Ombudsman will write to the landlord advising it of the problem and setting out the action required to resolve the issue and associated timescale.
The Ombudsman will provide one further opportunity giving a further five working days for action, unless there is clear evidence that immediate intervention by the Ombudsman is needed. If the complaint is still not being progressed, the Ombudsman will issue a CHFO with five working days to respond.
Type 2 CHFO – where the landlord has failed to provide information to the Ombudsman as requested
Failure to provide information for the purposes of our investigation delays the resolution of the dispute and causes unnecessary distress and inconvenience to the resident.
Landlords are required to provide case information requested by the Ombudsman within 15 working days (or by exception and prior agreement, an alternative timescale).
If the information requested is not provided within the time frame, the Ombudsman will issue a first warning letter giving five working days to provide the information requested. The Ombudsman will provide one further opportunity, in a second warning letter giving a further 5 working days for action, before issuing a CHFO with 5 working days to respond.
If the information is still not provided following the CHFO, the investigation will proceed on the evidence available. If the information is later provided as part of the review process the Ombudsman will consider this. However, the Ombudsman will take steps to ensure that residents are not disadvantaged by any late provision of evidence.
The Scheme also requires landlords to provide evidence of their compliance with the Ombudsman’s orders on individual cases. The Ombudsman’s determination letter will set out the timescales for compliance with orders.
If compliance has not been achieved within the timescales set, a reminder will be sent to the landlord requesting evidence of compliance to be provided within 10 working days. Failure to provide evidence of compliance to the Ombudsman following the reminder will result in a CHFO being issued requesting that the landlord provides evidence of compliance within 10 working days.
Paragraph 62 of our Scheme provides for reviews of determinations issued and so applies to CHFOs. A review request should be made within five working days of receipt of the CHFO.
Landlords may request a review of a CHFO if:
- there are new facts or evidence that have a bearing on the determination
- the landlord challenges the facts and/or evidence on which the Ombudsman relied
The Ombudsman will reject a review request if it is out of time, or we consider that the grounds for review are not met. Further information is available in our Reviews Policy.
Reporting complaint handling failures
Each quarter the Ombudsman will publish the total number of CHFOs issued by type, the names of the landlords and whether the order was complied with or not. This will also be shared with the Regulator of Social Housing.
The number of CHFOs issued against a landlord will form part of our annual individual landlord performance reports and will be available on our website.
From time to time the Ombudsman may publish a report detailing the specifics of a complaint handling failure case or group of cases to highlight the impact of the failure on the resolution of the dispute and delays and/or distress caused to residents and to encourage learning across the sector.