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Housing Ombudsman publishes a new Complaint Handling Code 16/07/2020 Labelled as Regulation, Tenants

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 responses
  • Ensuring fairness in complaint handling with a resident-focused process
  • 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 2020.


Importantly and for the first time, landlords will need to self-assess against the Code by 31 December 2020 and publish the results.


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.

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