The number of landlords found not to comply with its complaint handling failure orders has never been so high, says a social housing watchdog.
The Housing Ombudsman has released data on complaint handling from the previous quarter for its Complaint Handling Failure Order report – and says it found the highest level of non-compliant landlords since such records began.
From April to June 2023, the ombudsman issued 43 complaint handling failure orders (CHFOs), with 18 of those not being complied with – the most non-compliance in one quarter.
CHFOs are issued to support residents to raise or escalate a complaint within their landlord’s procedure, gather evidence to progress a formal investigation or address outstanding compliance with the ombudsman’s remedies.
Most are issued prior to investigation, with more than 6,000 cases handled by the ombudsman at this stage over the period, illustrating the exceptional basis for issuing the order.
The report comes as the ombudsman published its Complaint Handling Code consultation, which will become a statutory duty under the Social Housing Regulation Act.
Richard Blakeway, the housing ombudsman, said: “It is exceptional for us to issue a failure order and every one comes after several attempts to engage the landlord. For a landlord to receive several and not comply, indicates its complaints procedure is not working as it should.
“The result is residents continually waiting for redress, and landlords missing opportunities to put something right sooner.
“It is vital landlords assess their complaints procedure as the Complaint Handling Code becomes statutory. This means ensuring its complaints team has the resources and leverage within the landlord to do its job.”
In the wake of the report, the ombudsman has written to those organisations that did not comply with a CHFO.
According to the ombudsman, those landlords are: Alpha Housing Co-operative, Southwark Council (three times), L&Q, Arneway Housing Co-operative, Haringey Council (twice), Reliance Social Housing C.I.C, Barking & Dagenham Council (thrice), Aves Housing, Ash-Shahada Housing Association, Polish Retired Persons Housing Association, A2Dominion Group, Havering Council, and My Space Housing Solutions.
The report contains “key lessons” from all of the cases involved within the report, the ombudsman said, and it shares vital information and guidance around intervention work, which limits the need for formal action.
Three landlords are also highlighted by the ombudsman for taking effective action to strengthen complaint handling during the quarter. These are: Waltham Forest Council, Stonewater, and Livv Housing.
Blakeway added: “This report provides valuable insight into current complaint handling approaches and highlights where there may be weaknesses in culture, policy, procedure or challenges relating to resource.
“I would encourage all landlords be proactive in making the changes needed ahead of the statutory Code to ensure there is fairness for residents when making a complaint.”
Image credit: chainarong06/Shutterstock
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