Industry News

Two councils under investigation by Ombudsman for complaint procedure failures

the Ombudsman last year, in the first three months of 2021. All of the social landlords involved have


complied with the new orders with the exception of Lambeth and Enfield councils in London, which means they are now within the Ombudsman’s formal remit for investigation. Since January the Housing Ombudsman has had

the power to issue complaint-handling failure orders in circumstances where a landlord is failing to comply with the Ombudsman’s new Complaint Handling Code. “The purpose of complaint handling failure

orders is to ensure that a landlord’s complaint handling process is accessible, consistent and enables the timely progression of complaints for residents,” the Ombudsman’s report said. To date, the Ombudsman said it has issued the

orders either because of “unreasonable delays” in the landlord progressing the complaints process, or because of delays in providing complaints information requested from them. In the case of Lambeth Council, the Ombudsman

said: “Following numerous requests for the landlord to respond to the complaint an order was issued. This was not complied with and we decided the case had exhausted the landlord’s internal complaints procedure.” In the case of Enfield, the ombudsman said the council did respond to the order, but this was outside the date of compliance. The new orders are part of wider changes to the

Housing Ombudsman scheme that were first implemented last year and were laid out in the Government’s post-Grenfell Social Housing White Paper.C hanges include the new Complaint

he Housing Ombudsman confirmed it has issued 10 complaint-handling failure orders, part of its new armoury of powers given to

All of the social landlords involved have complied with the new orders with the exception of Lambeth and Enfield councils in London, which means they are now within the Ombudsman’s formal remit for investigation

Handling Code, which social landlords are required to self-assess themselves against. The Ombudsman has also begun publishing the details of cases it has determined on its website, alongside data on individual landlords’ complaint volumes, categories and outcomes. Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway said: “It

is crucial residents are listened to when they make a complaint and that landlords’ procedures are focused on timely resolution, not putting residents off complaining or a series of stages in order to reach the ombudsman. “Our code sets clear expectations for efficient,

effective and accessible complaint-handling and we issue orders where landlords fail to meet them.

These orders can now be made whilst the complaint is still within the landlord’s procedure. In most cases where we issued handling failure orders, the landlord responded well and sought to resolve the complaint, making clear the benefit of these orders to earlier resolution. “However, it is disappointing that in two cases

landlords did not comply, and we have taken these complaints into formal investigation. We received some really positive feedback from residents about the difference these orders have made to their experience of the complaints process, and I hope this report will promote transparency, accountability and learning across the social housing sector.”

Safety crisis sees social landlords increase maintenance spending

Social housing landlords have increased repairs and maintenance spending by 15 per cent over the last three years in response to the post Grenfell building safety crisis, according to the Regulator of Social Housing in England. The regulator’s annual value for money report

showed that capitalised major repairs, total repairs and maintenance costs increased between 2017 and 2020 to reach £5.7bn. The median headline Social Housing Cost metric has increased by 3.8 per cent to £3,830 per unit

annually. Overall, more than half of the sector reported an increase in repairs and maintenance spend of greater than 5 per cent, which the regulator said was attributable to higher building safety spend and health and safety compliance costs. The regulator also said there has been a

“significant increase” in investment into existing and new social stock over the past three years. Total reinvestment in new or existing social housing properties increased from £9.6bn in 2019 to £12.2bn in 2020.

22 | HMM June/July 2021 |

Elsewhere the regulator noted that the one per

cent rent reduction, introduced in 2016, continues to have an impact on the sector’s operating margin for its social housing lettings activity. Over the past five years, the margin has fallen from 32.1 per cent in 2016 to 27.8 in 2020. Fiona MacGregor, chief executive of the

regulator, said: “At a time when registered providers face a growing range of competing pressures and will be forced to make difficult choices, the importance of focusing on value for money has never been more important. These hard choices and trade-offs will demand informed strategic decision-making and will benefit from transparent and open conversations with key stakeholders.”

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