Questions about the Housing Ombudsman Service
Who are HOS and what do you do?
The Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) is an independent, impartial, and free service for social housing residents.
We look at complaints about housing organisations that are registered with us. The outcome of these investigations includes remedies, orders, and recommendations. We provide redress for the resident, require the landlord to improve their service if necessary, and offer additional recommendations based on the case findings.
Which organisation regulates the social housing sector?
The Regulator of Social Housing regulates the social housing sector. Although we have different functions, we have a Memorandum of Understanding which sets out how we work together.
Which organisation regulates the Housing Ombudsman?
The Housing Ombudsman is independent of national or local government. We have a sponsoring government department; the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).
We also conduct a quarterly independent review of service complaints, which monitors our performance and gives recommendations for improvements.
What powers do you have to resolve issues?
We can track our orders to ensure the landlord completes them and if we need to, can use court enforcement to make the landlord comply.
Questions about the complaints process
What is a complaint?
A complaint is defined 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.’
What kind of complaints can you look at?
We consider complaints about how a landlord has responded to reports of a problem. We consider what is fair in all the circumstances of a particular case. We look at whether a landlord dealt with the reported problem in line with the tenancy agreement or lease, and its own policies.
For more information, and to see what sort of complaints we cannot deal with, see the fact sheet on our jurisdiction.
Can you make a complaint for me?
We are impartial so we cannot act for a complainant or a landlord. We help landlords and tenants communicate with each other to resolve the situation. However, if a resident is struggling to access its landlord’s complaint process or is not receiving a response, we can support that resident to get the response they desire.
We maintain a list of other agencies such as Shelter or the local Citizens Advice that may be able to help too. You can view this list online.
What is the process of getting my complaint to HOS?
Firstly, the resident must make a formal complaint to their landlord.
If you are not happy with the response from the landlord, you can escalate it to a stage two complaint. If you are still not happy with the response to the stage two complaint, you can bring the complaint to the Housing Ombudsman.
How long will my case take?
We receive high volumes of cases, and we aim to deal with these as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our current average timescale for investigations is four and a half months, but more complex cases may take longer. We complete 99% of cases within 12 months.
In 2023, we recruited over 200 new members of staff to help tackle the increase in cases.
What is mediation?
Eighty percent of complaints are dealt with during the pre-investigation stage known as mediation. When the resident is dissatisfied with a response from a landlord, we aim to help find a resolution before a full investigation takes place.
Can a group of residents (such as residents’ associations) bring a complaint to the Ombudsman?
The Ombudsman deals with complaints from individual tenants and leaseholders.
In some cases, we may consider one resident’s complaint as a lead case for a wider group. This means that any decision we make for the lead case may also apply to other residents in the same circumstances.
How does the Housing Ombudsman prioritise cases?
Our approach is versatile. We assess if the case is high risk or if the landlord needs further investigation. If neither of these apply, we prioritise based on the age of the case.
What can I do if I am a private tenant?
Why shouldn’t I just go to the courts?
The Housing Ombudsman is a free alternative to the courts. We can get you redress after conducting a fair and impartial investigation.
Under our Scheme we cannot consider cases that have already been to court unless the problem has reoccurred, and the landlord has failed to act effectively.
If you have not started legal action, contact us to talk about your concerns and see if we can help you resolve the matter. If residents believe it is more suitable, you have the option to go via the court system.
Should I not pay rent whilst my home is in disrepair?
Residents should never withhold rent during a disrepair case or a dispute with their landlord. Paying rent is part of your tenancy agreement and therefore we would recommend continuing to pay.
As a service, we have improved our compensation awards by considering the rent paid as part of the solution. Whilst this will not be a full rent refund for the period impacted, we can order the landlord to pay a percentage back to the resident in the form of compensation.
Questions about dealing with landlords
Is my landlord a member of your Scheme?
All housing associations and local authorities (councils) must be a member of our Scheme. We also have some private landlords that are voluntary members. Check if your landlord is a member online.
By law we only consider complaints about member landlords.
My landlord has ignored my complaint, what can I do?
Landlords need a chance to put things right and to learn from the resident complaints they receive. We encourage residents to contact their landlord as soon as they identify a problem.
It is always worth checking that the right department or person has received your complaint. If necessary, resend the complaint.
If your landlord is still not responding, you can contact us for advice, and we can help you progress your complaint. If they refuse a request from us, we can issue them with a Complaint Handling Failure Order. This forces them to respond to you and we can then assist you through the complaints process.
Can you make my landlord take immediate action regarding my concerns?
No, that remains the landlord’s responsibility.
We have several fact sheets on subjects such as service charges and repairs. These can help you with reporting a problem and identifying what to expect from your landlord.
My landlord is charging me too much – how can you help me?
We are not able to consider complaints about the level of rent and/or service charges.
If you think your landlord charges are too high, you can contact an advice agency such as Shelter. If you want to get a binding decision, you will need to contact the First Tier Tribunal - Property Chamber (Residential Property).
We can however look at how the landlord has dealt with your queries and subsequent complaint handling.
Should I accept the compensation my landlord has offered me?
The decision to accept compensation is yours to make.
We only order compensation when we have found that there has been maladministration. The amount depends on the circumstances of the case and is usually for time and trouble, or for distress and inconvenience experienced by the complainant. We do not order compensation for impact on health/medical issues.
For more information see our fact sheet on compensation.