Landlords can now complete the Complaint Handling Code Annual Submissions form. More information is available online.

Residents Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The Housing Ombudsman Service is an independent, impartial, and free service that considers complaints from residents living in social housing. 

On this page we answer frequently asked questions that we often hear as part of our engagement work with our Resident Panel, local community events and through our casework.  

Find out more about us

Making a complaint

  • 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 an organisation, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf. Affecting an individual resident or group of residents.’ 

    If you have reported an issue to your landlord and you do not think it has taken the right action or responded in a suitable way, you can make a complaint and tell your landlord what you think has gone wrong.  

    A complaint should not be made as a request for service. A service request is when you ask your landlord to act, for example carry out a repair or investigate antisocial behaviour you are experiencing in your home. A landlords complaints policy should clearly set out the difference between a service request and a complaint, and how they will respond to both. 

  • How do I make a complaint to my landlord?

    Landlords should have a complaint process that is as accessible as possible and provide different ways for residents to make a complaint. This could include by phone, email, online web function or in person. 

    Find out more about making a complaint to your landlord.

  • I cannot find my landlord’s complaint policy. What should I do?

    Landlords should publish its complaint policy on its website. In some cases, if a landlord does not have a website or the resident cannot access it online the landlord must provide a copy of its complaint policy – for example by post, in a public area, or in its newsletter.

  • Can my landlord decide to treat my complaint as a service request?

    Landlords should be provided the opportunity to respond to a service request for issues reported for the first time, therefore landlords may decide to raise a service request rather than a complaint when an issue is first reported to it. Where a landlord does this, the resident should be informed of its decision and reason for doing so and an action plan for the next steps it will take.  

  • What if I do not want my landlord to raise a complaint?

    If a landlord thinks it is appropriate to raise a complaint to fully investigate an issue and to provide a suitable remedy, it can decide to raise a complaint. 

    The complaint process allows a resident’s concerns to be investigated thoroughly and provides residents with a way to escalate the matter if it is not resolved to their satisfaction. However, if a resident specifically asks that a complaint is not logged, landlords should consider this. 

  • How long should I wait before I make a complaint?

    If you are unhappy with how your landlord has handled an issue you have reported to it, you should let it know as soon as possible. Your complaint should clearly explain why you are unhappy and what you think it should do to put things right. 

    You must make a complaint to your landlord within 12 months from the date of the issue, or when you became aware of the issue.  

  • What if my landlord refuses to accept my complaint?

    If a landlord has decided not to accept a complaint, it must provide a written response which clearly sets out its reasons why and refer to the specific exclusion in its complaints policy. The landlord must also set out how you can take the decision to the Housing Ombudsman. In some cases, we might order the landlord to take on the complaint. 

    Below are some examples of where a landlord may decide not to accept a complaint: 

    • the complaint made is the same issue which is or has been subject to legal proceedings 
    • the issue has already been investigated under the landlord’s complaints process 
    • the issues have been brought to the landlord after 12 months from the issue occurring 

    The landlord’s complaint policy must also set out how it will handle complaints or unreasonable or unacceptable behaviour. The landlord's process for managing complaints made in an unacceptable way should ensure that it is protecting its staff and resources, but also, that it is not unnecessarily blocking a resident accessing its complaints process. 

  • Should I copy the Ombudsman into my housing complaint or emails to my landlord?

    No, a complaint is your opportunity to tell your landlord what has gone wrong and what you think it should do to put things right 

    If you bring your complaint to us because the landlord has not responded or would like us to consider a complaint for investigation, we will ask to see a copy of the complaint you made to the landlord and any responses it sent to you. 

    If your complaint is accepted for investigation, we will make a request for supporting information from both parties, which will act as the evidence for our investigation.  

  • What kind of information should I keep as evidence for my complaint?

    We would recommend that you put your complaint in writing (if possible) and keep a record of any reference numbers, visits, calls, repair, diary sheets, police logs and responses from the landlord. The Ombudsman can only consider the response to evidence or issues which have been reported to the landlord. 

    We take an inquisitorial approach which means we request information we need from either party to investigate the complaint. 

  • Can the Ombudsman make a complaint to my landlord for me?

    No. Our role is to remain impartial, therefore we cannot act on the behalf of a resident making a complaint to the landlord. Where possible, we will mediate to help progress a complaint that has stalled or improve communication between the resident and landlord. 

    If you are struggling to access your landlord’s complaint process or have made a complaint and the landlord has not provided a response, we can help you to get a response from your landlord. 

    We can also accept complaints from representatives.  

    Find out more about bringing a complaint on someone's behalf.

  • Can somebody else make a complaint to my landlord for me?

    Yes. Landlords must allow residents to appoint a representative to deal with their complaint on their behalf should they wish to do so. The landlord's complaint policy should set out how it will handle requests for representatives and how they can access the landlord's complaint process on a resident’s behalf. 

  • Is the complaint process the same for tenants, leaseholders and shared owners?

    Yes. The landlord must have a single, consistent complaint policy that residents with any kind of tenancy with it can access.

Complaint handling

  • How many stages should a landlord’s complaints process have?

    A landlord’s complaint process must be 2 stages. The landlord must not use any ‘informal complaint’ stages, more than 2 stages or any less than 2. 

    Scrutiny or tenant panels should not be an added stage and must form part of the 2-stage process. 

  • Will resident panels still be part of the complaints process with the removal of stage 3?

    The Complaint Handling Code is clear that a landlord’s complaints procedure must be in 2 stages only and that stage 2 must be the final stage. Any further stages may result in the process being too long and cause delays in residents reaching a resolution. 

    Landlords are still able to use resident panels, but it must be as part of a 2-stage complaints process. 

  • How do I know my landlord has raised a complaint?

    A landlord should acknowledge a complaint made to it, in writing, within 5 working days of it being received. 

  • Should my landlord provide a reference number when a complaint is made?

    There is no statutory requirement for the landlord to provide a complaint reference number. However, landlords must provide a written acknowledgement to residents, clearly outlining the landlord’s understanding of the complaint and when they can expect to receive a response.  

  • How long should a landlord take to respond at stage 1 of its complaint process?

    The landlord must provide a written stage 1 response within 10 working days from the date the complaint was acknowledged (15 working days in total). 

    The landlord is allowed to extend this timescale by no more than a further 10 working days, but it must clearly set out its reasons why and provide a date for when it will provide the response and contact information to this service.  

  • What can I do if I am unhappy with the landlord’s stage 1 response? 

    If you are unhappy with the landlord’s response you can request to escalate your complaint to stage 2 of the landlord's complaint procedure. Instructions on how to escalate the complaint to the next stage of landlord’s complaint procedure should be set out in its stage 1 response. 

    You should clearly set out to the landlord why you are unhappy with its stage 1 response, what you think it should do to put things right and tell the landlord if there are any parts of your complaint you do not think it has responded appropriately to.  

    Help escalating your complaint.

  • How long should a landlord take to respond at stage 2 of its complaint process?

    The landlord must acknowledge a request to escalate the complaint to stage 2 within 5 working days of the complaint being received and provide a stage 2 response, in writing, within 20 working days of the acknowledgment date (25 working days in total).

    The landlord is allowed to extend this timescale by no more than 20 additional working days, but it must clearly set out its reasons for doing so and provide a date for when it will provide the response and contact details for this service. 

  • Is there a time limit to escalate my complaint to stage 2?

    The Ombudsman’s Code does not set a ‘limit’ for how long a resident can take to escalate their complaint to stage 2, however, we would recommend you tell the landlord as soon as possible that you will be escalating the complaint and put your request to do so in writing.  

    If the landlord decides to time limit the timescale to escalate a complaint, it should clearly set this out in its complaint policy, its stage 1 response and provide a fair and reasonable timescale to do so, considering the individual circumstances for the case and the time for any remedial action to take place.  

  • Can I escalate my complaint to stage 2 if the landlord does not provide a stage 1 response?

    No. A complaint must be considered at both stages of the landlord’s complaint process. If the landlord has not provided a stage 1 response within 15 working days from the date you made it, you should contact this service for help with a copy of the complaint you made to the landlord. 


  • What happens if my landlord does not follow its complaints process?

    We can help if there is evidence the landlord not accepting a complaint or when there are delays in providing a complaint response in line with its complaint policy and timescales in the Code. If you have made a complaint to you landlord and it has not responded, we will contact your landlord to ask it to respond.  

    We can issue an order to the landlord if there is evidence of complaint handling failure. We call this a Complaint Handling Failure Order, and we report these findings in quarterly published reports and report to the Regulator of Social Housing. 

    We would also recommend that you contact your landlord directly to ask for an update on your complaint and a date you can expect to receive a response. 

  • How long does my landlord have to complete any works or provide resolution to the complaint?

    The landlord must provide a response within the Code timescales which sets out the actions it will take and when. The landlord must not delay providing a complaint response until any outstanding actions are completed and is not sufficient reason to extend the timescales to provide a complaint response. Once the landlord has provided a response setting out the actions it will take, the resident should be kept well informed and updated on the progress until the complaint issues have been resolved. 

  • My complaint is about a contractor that came to my home to do work, who do I complain to?

    Your landlord is responsible for any contractors it sends to your home to carry out work on its behalf and should investigate any complaints about the quality of their work or actions. If the landlord decides to refer the complaint to a contractor to provide a response, it must be as part of its 2-stage complaint process. The landlord is also responsible for ensuring you have received a response from the contractor within the timescales set out above. It is better practice for the landlord to ask its contractor for a response to the issues raised and provide it via the landlord’s own complaint process.  

    You should never be asked to go through a separate complaint process to raise issues about a contractor to your landlord.  

  • Who should investigate the complaint I make to my landlord?

    The landlord must ensure that the person investigating the complaint at stage 2 is not the same person that investigated a complaint at stage 1.  

    Your landlord should have a person or team that is responsible for overall complaint handling, however, their role may also have other duties and some smaller landlords may not have capacity for a dedicated complaints team or officer. 


Compliance with the Code

  • How does the Ombudsman monitor a landlord’s compliance with the Code?

    The Ombudsman has a duty to monitor landlord compliance with the Complaint Handling Code. As part of this, the Ombudsman is asking landlords to publish a Complaints Performance and Service Improvement report which includes its self-assessment against the Code. The landlord must publish this on their website (if they have one) and provide this information to the Housing Ombudsman in their annual submission. This will then be reviewed by the Ombudsman. 

    Where we have significant concerns about a landlord’s compliance with the Code, we will take further action. This could include: 

    • requesting further information or evidence from the landlord  
    • meeting with a landlord 
    • requesting the landlord to amend its policy or practice to meet the Code 
    • issuing a Complaint Handling Failure Order (CHFO) which involves making an order to the landlord to take action 
    • making referrals to the trade body and/or Regulator of Social Housing 

    Where significant concerns remain, we may visit the landlord to understand what is happening in practice and how we can help the landlord in becoming compliant with the Code. 

  • How should my landlord self-assess against the Code?

    Landlords must produce a complaints performance and service improvement report and the self-assessment forms part of this. Landlords must send a self-assessment to the Ombudsman every year and publish it on their website.  

  • What will the Complaints Performance and Service Improvement Report show residents?

    Landlords can choose to use their own format for the annual complaints performance and service improvement report however, it should include the following information: 

    • the landlord’s self-assessment against the Code  
    • analysis of the landlord’s complaint handling performance including a summary of the types of complaints the landlord has refused to accept 
    • any findings of non-compliance with the Code by the Ombudsman 
    • the service improvements made from learning from complaints 
    • any actions following any annual report about their performance from the Ombudsman, or any other report or publication produced by the Ombudsman 
  • Can I report my landlord’s non-compliance with the Code?

    You should tell us if you notice non-compliance with the Code when the landlord is handling your complaint. 

  • Who should my landlord appoint as a Member Responsible for Complaints?

    The statutory role of a Member Responsible for Complaints (MRC) holds residents central in all that they do, they are rarely involved in the complaint handling or carrying out complaint investigations.  

    The MRC is a role within the landlord’s governing body responsible for ensuring complaint handling drives residents’ service improvement. The role is to champion a positive complaint handling culture and to take steps to ensure complaints are managed correctly throughout the organisation. 

Bringing your complaint to the Ombudsman for investigation

  • When can I get help from the Housing Ombudsman?

    You can come to the Ombudsman for help with your complaint if the landlord has not provided a response within its complaint policy timescales or if you are still unhappy after completing both stages of the landlord’s complaint procedure.  

    We can only consider a complaint for investigation once the landlord has provided a stage 2 response; this is sometimes referred to as a ‘final response’.  

    You must tell us why you are unhappy with the landlord’s stage 2 response and what you think the landlord should do to put things right. 

    Find out more about when to get help from the Ombudsman.

  • What type of complaint can the Housing Ombudsman investigate?

    We consider complaints about a landlord’s housing activities or management, for example: repairs, complaint handling, antisocial behaviour, charges. 

    We cannot consider every complaint about housing, some issues such as how your council deal with a homelessness application or the priority you are given on the housing register fall under the remit of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.  

    We work closely with other Ombudsman and have a joint understanding which sets out which housing complaints we can look at. 

    Find out more about complaints we can consider.

  • How long will the Ombudsman take to investigate my complaint?

    We are currently receiving extremely 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 investigations within 12 months. 

    Since 2023, we have recruited over 300 new members of staff to help tackle the increase in cases. 

  • What is mediation?

    80% of complaints are dealt with during the pre-investigation stage known as mediation. When the resident is dissatisfied with the stage 2 response from their landlord, we aim to help find a resolution where possible, 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 residents. This is because the complaint issue may affect one household differently to another, and our investigations consider the impact or detriment the issues have had to an individual.

    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.

    Under the Social Housing Regulation Act, the Ombudsman was given powers to issue wider orders, where we are able to make a landlord review where similar issues could be happening in other blocks or homes they manage. This can include then undertaking repairs and surveys to resolve issues in those homes

  • How does the Housing Ombudsman prioritise cases?

    We assess each case individually when it is referred to the service. We assess if the case is high risk or if the landlord needs further investigation. If neither of these apply, we will give priority based on the age of the case (oldest first). 

    Information for residents having repair issues in your home.  

  • What if I do not agree with the Ombudsman’s decision?

    You can ask for a review of our decision on your complaint within 3 weeks of the determination being made if: 

    • you have new facts or evidence for us to consider which may have a bearing on our original decision  
    • you are challenging the facts or evidence we used when making our decision 

    We will not review our decision about your complaint because you disagree with our decision or have a different view to us. The review will be of our decision, we will not look at the original complaint again.  

Questions about landlords