Before we can formally investigate a complaint, eight weeks must have passed since the completion of a landlord’s internal complaints procedure, unless the complaint has been referred by a designated person.
We may first seek to resolve a complaint through the early resolution stage of our dispute resolution process. If this in unsuccessful, or if early resolution was not attempted (e.g. because of objections by the parties concerned or because the complaint was too complex) we have a duty to investigate the complaint.
How will you investigate my complaint?
The investigation will normally be conducted by an Adjudicator. Depending on what information has already been provided, the Adjudicator may request further evidence from both the complainant and the landlord. This will normally include:
- a copy of the lease or tenancy agreement
- relevant policies and procedure
- copies of complaints and response and other relevant correspondence
- telephone notes, surveys, reports and other records relevant to the case.
It is not within our authority to determine whether a landlord has broken the law. The purpose of our investigation is to assess whether a landlord responded appropriately to a given situation and to decide whether its actions were fair and reasonable, taking all the circumstances of the case into account.
Under the terms of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme we can make a finding of either no maladministration, service failure (a lower form of maladministration), maladministration, or severe maladministration.
What happens at the end of the investigation?
We will send a determination letter, accompanied by an investigation report, to the complainant and/or their representative, the landlord and any designated person involved. These documents will define the complaints under investigation, set out the background to the case, set out the evidence used in assessing the case and provide the reasons behind any findings and conclusions reached.
What findings does the Ombudsman make?
Where our investigation finds evidence of a service failure, we will make one of the following findings:
- Maladministration – this could be a finding of service failure, maladministration or severe maladministration , depending upon the seriousness of the failure and the impact on the resident
- Reasonable redress - There is evidence of service failure or maladministration however the landlord has identified and acknowledged this, either as part of our early resolution process or on its own initiative. It has taken steps, and/or made an offer of compensation, that puts things right.
A finding of no maladministration is made where the evidence demonstrates that the landlord acted in accordance with its obligations and there is no evidence of any significant failing or detriment to residents.
If a number of issues are raised within one complaint, we will investigate and make a finding for each issue. This may mean that there is partial maladministration, where maladministration is found in relation to one or more element of the complaint, but not all.
Orders and recommendations
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the report may include a series of orders and recommendations to resolve the dispute.
- Orders aim to put things right to resolve the individual complaint and landlords are obliged to comply with our orders.
- Recommendations are made where wider learning or improvement could improve housing services across the landlord for the benefit of other residents. Landlords are not currently obliged to comply with recommendations.
How long will it take?
We receive a high volume of cases which we aim to deal with as quickly as possible. An investigation can be a long, complex process but we complete 99% of cases within 12 months and six months on average.
More detail on our approach to investigating complaints in accordance with the Housing Ombudsman Scheme is set out in our investigation guidance.