Complaints Handling Improves Ombudsman Oversight, Landlord Services and Tenants’ Lives

15th March 2024

Reduce tenants’ complaint escalation to the Housing Ombudsman

The concept of social housing within the UK, dates back to the late 19th century, accelerating massively following the Second World War with the need to replace derelict and destroyed housing and rehome the returning soldiers. This economic and social stabiliser continued through the next 35 years increasing the availability of affordable housing.

In 1980 the Government's ‘Right-to-buy’ policy, initially envisaged to improve citizen capital wealth, accelerated the purchasing of social housing, well above the rate new social homes could be built to replace them. Ongoing recent government austerity measures meant the modern-day safety-net for the housing needs of 21st century society is becoming tattered.

Despite Government grants for local authorities expected to rise by 3.2% in 2023-24, this is following more than a decade of austerity which has drained the reserves of local councils, leaving insufficient funding to effectively grow their housing stock.

Number of new social homes built 126,000 average each year 94,140 44,240 7,528
Year 1945-1979 1980 1983 2021

From a high of 5.5 million social rent houses in 1979 down to around 3.8 million in 2021, this reduction of availability combined the aging condition of housing stock has resulted in a large volume of disputes and complaints needing to be handled by the housing authorities. Vital housing services are under-resourced and vulnerable to mismanagement and inefficiencies; with every resolution delay and each error increasing the stress, inconvenience, and financial hardship for tenants.

This makes it essential to have an effective dispute resolution mechanism in place to improve both landlord services and tenants' lives. This system should comprise a modern complaints management system, working in tandem with tenants and landlords, with an independent, unbiased, ombudsman service providing oversight.

In England and Wales this role is filled by the Housing Ombudsman Service, and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman handling regulation across the border, they support and resolve disputes between landlords and tenants effectively, deciding any remedial action or compensation when appropriate.

According to the latest report from the Housing Ombudsman Service, covering the period from October to December 2022, they resolved 1,263 resident complaints, in comparison to only 819 in the previous quarter – a substantial increase of 54%.

More insights from this report suggest the need for a robust record keeping system to effectively and efficiently handle complaints. This is based on the fact that 67% of investigations upheld in favour of the tenants in were due to housing provider record management issues.

A modern-day complaints solution

Housing providers, by maintaining an effective complaint handling solution minimise the risk of complaints occurring in the first place, and any unresolved complaints being escalated to the ombudsman. By allowing tenants self-service to submit any issues using their preferred channels, automating real-time responses, and providing handlers all needed information and proactively prompting action and at the time needed, this optimises efficiency. Using real-time data available in such a system can help identify root causes to action prior to complaint reoccurrence and the reallocation of resources to manage bottlenecks.

By greatly reducing number of escalated cases to the ombudsman, and when this does occur being able to provide the ombudsman with a casefile bundle in the required format, this ensures clarity and ease of investigation for all parties.

Other benefits:

  1. Resolving disputes smoothly:
    An ombudsman can help resolve disputes by acting as a neutral third-party to mediate between landlords and tenants. Taking advantage of a modern complaint management system, means they have all the information to hand in order to resolve conflicts and help maintain better relationships between landlords and tenants.
  2. Reducing stress and anxiety:
    Disputes with landlords can cause significant stress and anxiety for tenants. An ombudsman can provide a safe and supportive intermediate for tenants to voice their concerns and work towards a beneficial resolution. A complaints management solution facilitates this safe space and eases concerns.
  3. Improving communication:
    An ombudsman can help to smooth communication between landlords and tenants, with all the information provided by an advanced complaints management system, the ombudsman services can prevent mismanagement scenarios and resolve issues with optimal outcome. This also helps build trust between landlords and tenants.
  4. Improving the quality of landlord services:
    By providing an independent, secure and easy to use platform for resolving complaints, the landlord can identify areas to improve their services. This can lead to better service delivery and greater satisfaction for tenants.

Overall, an ombudsman service plays a crucial role in improving the quality of landlord services and tenants' lives, by acting as a neutral and impartial party for dispute resolution. With landlords empowered by advanced complaints technology they can prevent avoidable conflicts and promote a more harmonious living environment for tenants. The process of Ombudsman, landlords and tenants working together, along with an effective complaint handling provision can quickly and fairly resolve disputes, building strong and positive relationships, benefitting everyone involved.

For more information on complaints handling for housing and other sectors contact Civica.

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