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The Housing Ombudsman has released a new complaints code, aiming to speed up redress and create more consistency.
The code provides a framework for "high-quality complaint handling and greater consistency across landlords’ complaint procedures", the Ombudsman says.
It will enable landlords to resolve complaints raised by their residents quickly and to use the learning from complaints to drive service improvements.
The Code is part of the Ombudsman’s new powers in the revised Housing Ombudsman Scheme. It sets out good practice for the sector that will allow landlords to respond to complaints effectively and fairly. The key areas are:
- Universal definition of a complaint
- Providing easy access to the complaints procedure and ensuring residents are aware of it, including their right to access the Housing Ombudsman Service
- The structure of the complaints procedure - only two stages necessary and clear timeframes 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.
As well as setting out expectations for boards, senior executives and frontline staff, the Code will help residents in knowing what to expect from their landlord when they make a complaint and how to progress their complaint.
Landlords will be asked to self-assess against the Code by 31 December 2020 and publish the results. Non-compliance could result in the Ombudsman issuing complaint handling failure orders.
Guidance on these new orders has also been published today and these will be implemented from 1 January 2021.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “The Code responds to resident concerns about the consistency and accessibility of complaint procedures.
"An effective complaints process will help to create a positive complaint handling culture, benefitting both landlord staff and residents.
"Complaints should have an important strategic role within landlord organisations, providing vital intelligence on their health, performance and reputation. On that basis, we hope the Code is welcomed by the sector as a tool for supporting excellence.”
The Code has been developed in dialogue with a working group with organisations from across the sector. Members of the working group said:
Jenny Osbourne, Chief Executive, Tpas, said: “Tpas welcomes the publication of the new Complaint Handling Code from the Housing Ombudsman as another step forward in ensuring tenants know what they can rightly expect when they have a complaint with their landlord.”
Gavin Smart, Chief Executive, CIH, said: “CIH is pleased to support the new Complaint Handling Code. The changes it makes in several key areas should strengthen the Ombudsman’s ability to resolve complaints, improve transparency for all and help individual landlords and the sector as a whole, learn from landlords’ experiences of handling complaints.”
Eamon McGoldrick, Managing director, National Federation of ALMOs, said: “The profile of the Housing Ombudsman has risen significantly over the last 12 months with initiatives such as publishing Insight Reports to share best practice. The Complaint Handling Code is another welcome tool to help landlords adopt best practice in complaint resolution.”