The Housing Ombudsman has issued a new Complaint Handling Code
intended to enable landlords to resolve complaints raised by their
residents quickly and to use the learning from complaints to drive
service improvements. It will also drive greater consistency
across landlords' complaint procedures.
The key elements of the new Code which local authority landlords
will be required to follow include:
- Universal definition of a complaint
- Providing easy access to the complaints procedure and ensuring
residents are aware of it, including residents' right to access the
Housing Ombudsman Service
- The structure of the complaints procedure - only two stages are
necessary and clear timeframes must be set out for
- Ensuring fairness in complaint handling with a resident-focused
- Taking action to put things right and appropriate remedies
- Creating a positive complaint handling culture through
continuous learning and improvement
- Demonstrating learning in Annual Reports.
The Code is part of the Ombudsman's new powers in the revised Housing Ombudsman Scheme which originally planned to take effect
from 1 July 2020 but will now take effect from 1 September
Importantly and for the first time, landlords will need to
self-assess against the Code by 31 December 2020 and publish the
The revised Scheme also gives the Housing Ombudsman new powers
to issue complaint handling failure orders, which could be used if
landlords fail to comply with the Code. The Housing Ombudsman has
published new guidance on complaint handling failure orders
including examples of when the orders may be used.
As well as non-compliance with the Code, Complaint Handling
Failure Orders could be used if a complaint fails to progress in a
landlord's internal complaints process or where landlords do not
provide information to support the formal investigations within a
reasonable timeframe. The aim is to ensure that a landlord's
complaint handling process is accessible, consistent and enables
the timely progression of complaints for residents.
The new Complaint Handling Failure Orders will be implemented from
1 January 2021 and will be published on the Housing Ombudsman's
website. Landlords will be given an opportunity to put something
right, but any outstanding issues could be escalated to the
Regulator for Social Housing.
It is essential that councils review their current complaints
procedures and amend as necessary to ensure full compliance with
the new Complaints Handling Code.
The new Complaints Handling Code and self-assessment framework
is available to download from the Housing Ombudsman's website.