What is a designated person?
A designated person can help to resolve a complaint after a landlord’s internal complaints procedure is finished. While we are unable to consider cases until eight weeks after your landlord's final response, a designated person can help you right away. They can help resolve the complaint in one of two ways; by trying and resolve the complaint themselves or by referring the complaint straight to the Ombudsman.
What does the designated person do?
The designated person can try to put things right in which ever way they think may work best. If the problem is still not resolved following the intervention of the designated person, either they or the resident can refer the complaint to us.
Complaints to us do not have to be referred by a designated person. However, should you choose to refer a complaint to us without the assistance of a designated person, this must be done at least eight weeks after the date of the landlord’s final response to the complaint. We are unable to consider the case until then.
Who can be a designated person?
A designated person can be an MP, a local councillor, or a tenant panel. Landlords do not have to set up tenant panels, but they are expected to support their formation and activities if their tenants want them. To be effective the tenant panel must be ‘recognised’ by the landlord.
Why have designated persons?
Designated persons were introduced under the Localism Act 2011 to improve the chances of complaints about housing being resolved locally. The idea behind localism is that local people know best how to decide on local issues. The introduction of designated persons is intended to involve local politicians and local people in resolving local housing issues. It follows from this that there is to be no central control or regulation of the development of local resolution mechanisms.
The Housing Ombudsman is not a regulator and cannot define the expected role or processes for designated persons. That would be contrary to the purpose of localism.
What is the impact of designated persons on complaints procedures?
Designated persons have no direct impact on a landlord’s internal complaints procedure. MPs and local councillors have always been involved in complaints procedures as advocates for tenants. Their specific role as designated persons is different as they play a more specific part in the procedure. The detail of that role is not spelt out in the Localism Act, but a part of it is to refer complaints to the Ombudsman. The law says that when the designated person refers a complaint to the Ombudsman, it must be in writing.
The Housing Ombudsman and designated persons
Early and local resolution is the best possible outcome to a complaint. We will encourage positive relationships between landlords and tenants and the designated persons to achieve this. We will also provide information and advice to support designated persons in improving the methods and approaches they might use to resolve a dispute. While we will not comment on designated persons’ decisions we will feed back on referrals from designated persons to improve complaints handling at all levels.
Although we can advise designated persons on good practice in complaint handling, the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over designated persons and has no authority to regulate or produce guidance for their selection, activity or conduct.
The Ombudsman is required to maintain a register of recognised tenant panels (if you would like to register a tenant panel please email the details to firstname.lastname@example.org). However, we do not oversee the involvement of panels or any other designated person in the local resolution of complaints.
When we receive a complaint that has gone through the landlord’s internal complaints procedure we will always ask if it has been referred to a designated person. If it has not, we will provide guidance about designated persons and how you can refer your case to one.
If a resident is clear that they do not want to make use of that opportunity for local resolution, we will consider the case providing eight weeks has passed from the date of the landlord’s final stage response letter.