Managing agents should face stronger regulation, the Housing Ombudsman has said, while without a standalone regulator to drive consistency and improvement, the sector presents challenges and risks to social landlords,
In its latest Spotlight report, the Ombudsman reveals it examined 62 cases where the landlord had to engage a managing agent to resolve issues.
The cases highlight the real-life experiences of residents, including the repeated loss of hot water during winter, leaking roofs and unexplained service charges.
The Ombudsman found a high level of maladministration at 64.5%, about a third higher than the average for casework in the same period.
According to the report, the relationship between social landlords and managing agents is often strained and, at worst, dysfunctional, and the increased complexity of these arrangements seems to correlate with an increase in confusion, delay and unfairness.
Residents then experience the unfairness of being stuck in the middle when they try to get issues resolved, which the Ombudsman says contrasts with its efforts to simplify complaints processes and improve outcomes.
The report sets out what the Ombudsman has found to help raise awareness of the challenges faced by landlords and residents.
It makes 14 recommendations including:
- A standalone regulator driving consistency and improvement, given the managing agent sector presents significant challenges and risks to social landlords
- Sector collaboration to increase their collective influence on rogue or poor performing managing agents
- Shared understanding of the challenges and risks associated with new homes between development and operational teams
- Reviewing agreements with managing agents to clarify roles and responsibilities and consistent approach to escalating issues
- Reviewing complaints and service and repair requests in buildings managed by third parties to ensure they are effective