The purpose of a complaint handling policy and procedure must be to resolve complaints. That is to identify what if anything went wrong and to take any action necessary to put it right. It should not be a series of stages a complainant has to complete in order to approach the Ombudsman, or a mechanism for stopping complaints by putting tenants off. Efficient and effective complaint handling prevents unnecessary escalation and wasted resources.
Here are some of the signs that a policy is designed to put things right:
- Resolving the dispute is a step to improving, repairing or rebuilding the landlord and tenant relationship.
- The tenant is put back in the position they would have been in if there was no service failure.
- Financial compensation is considered if the tenant’s position cannot be restored.
- Decision makers have the authority to identify the actions that are necessary to resolve the dispute.
- Expectations are properly managed. Promises should not be made that cannot be delivered and outcomes should not be offered that would cause unfairness to other tenants.
- The proposed outcome to resolve the complaint complies with law, policy and good practice.
- Decision makers look beyond the circumstances of the individual complainant and consider whether anything needs to be ‘put right’ in terms of wider process or systems.
How is ‘putting it right’ relevant?
- Landlords’ complaints handling procedures should demonstrate that their purpose is to resolve disputes and restore the tenant’s position if something has gone wrong.
- Landlords are responsible for ensuring that things are put right, even if the Ombudsman is involved.
- Landlords should manage tenant’s expectations about what can be done to put things right.
- Tenants can expect their landlord to try to put things right if they have considered a complaint and found that something has gone wrong.
- If tenants do not think that things have been put right they are entitled to ask for a complaint to be moved onto the next stage.
- Tenants should be aware that there are sometimes limits, for example legal or financial on what a landlord can do to put things right.
- Scrutiny and tenant panels have a role in ensuring that landlords’ complaint handling process are effective in putting things right.