Opinion: How are you getting on with your Housing Ombudsman self-assessments? | News

Opinion: How are you getting on with your Housing Ombudsman self-assessments?

By Lydia Dlaboha, Deputy CEO, HQN

The Housing Ombudsman Service’s (HSO) new Complaint Handling Code came into effect on 1st September 2020.

The new code sets out the good practice guidelines which should enable landlords to respond to complaints effectively and fairly.  It also explains the HSO’s very clear expectations around compliance with the code.

The purpose of the new code is to improve accessibility and consistency of complaints services for residents. It’s intended to ensure procedures are fair, fast, easy to access and continuous learning and improvement from complaints benefits residents.

Central to this is the requirement for social housing landlords to self-assess against the code and publish the results by the 31st December 2020.

Non-compliance could result in the HSO issuing a Complaint Handling Failure Order, which might include one or more of the following:

  • An order to rectify the situation
  • Notifying the landlord's governance body of concerns
  • Escalation to the regulatory body, including the Regulator of Social Housing
  • Publication of the complaint handling failure order

I know from speaking to various organisations that many have already started work on the self- assessment. 

Whilst it feels like there’s still plenty of time you shouldn’t be fooled. It’s much more than a tick box exercise.  You need to think about how you approach the self-assessment so it stands up to scrutiny. And you may need to make some changes to the way you handle your complaints. 

So, it is important to start as soon as you can.

Having reviewed lots of different complaints handling procedures for various landlords we’ve put together our top tips – the things you should consider and watch out for:

  • Lets start with the self-assessment - how will you go about it? Who will lead? Will you set up a cross departmental group? How will you involve residents? Who will you present it to for sign off before submission?
  • Ensure your policies and procedures comply with the code - make sure you address the detail of the requirements
  • Check them again. Do they actually reflect what you are currently doing on the ground, day to day?  For example, have you changed anything because of Covid-19 and remote working?
  • You will need to get any changes approved through your governance framework – allow sufficient time for this.  Factor this into your timeline
  • You need to show your procedure is easy to access – don’t forget to include social media.  What do your tenants say?
  • You also need to demonstrate a positive complaint culture – this takes time to bed in.  Remember to include your key contractors (repairs) in this
  • And you need to be able to demonstrate learning from complaints – and include it in your Annual Reports (to tenants).

Good luck.  If you need any help or advice or want to share what you’re doing please do get in touch.  We’re happy to help and will continue to keep members updated.