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66% of investigations into complaint handling upheld by Housing Ombudsman 17/03/2022 Labelled as Scrutiny, Regulation, Tenants

The Housing Ombudsman has published the first annual review of complaints, which found that 66% of investigations into complaint handling were upheld. The report also found that 70% of residents on the Housing Ombudsman's Resident Panel felt more could be done by landlords to improve their complaint handling.


The Housing Ombudsman's analysis strongly suggests that both complaint handling and service delivery need to be improved and the review identifies some challenges for the sector.


The review looks at the most common areas for complaint - repairs, anti-social behaviour and complaint handling - and provides the first analysis of the sector's performance by type and size of landlord.


It covers the period April 2020 to March 2021 and draws insight from:


  • The annual landlord performance reports, published for the second time
  • New annual surveys of the Ombudsman's 600-member strong Resident Panel and landlords
  • Complaint Handling Failure Orders issued in the final quarter of the year.


The individual landlord reports show an expected correlation between the number of complaints and landlord size.


For complaints about property condition (the highest category of complaint) medium sized landlords have the largest rate at 34% compared to 32% for large landlords and 24% for small landlords. However, the percentage of complaints upheld is the lowest at 39%.


On complaints about complaint handling that account for 19% of all complaints determined and have a high overall uphold rate of 66%, the rate for medium sized landlords is noticeably lower at 39% compared to 73% for small landlords and 67% for large landlords.


In the Housing Ombudsman's first survey of its Resident Panel, residents scored access to the complaints process well with 68% rating it as acceptable or above.


However, 70% felt more could be done by landlords to improve their complaint handling and the same proportion felt landlords could do more to raise awareness.


More than 77% of residents felt landlords could do more to learn from the complaints they receive.


Landlords were surveyed about the Ombudsman's Complaint Handling Code, which sets out good practice on effective complaint handling, with 94% saying it was easy to understand and 88% that it was easy to apply.


Based on the analysis, the annual review identifies a number of key strategic and operational challenges for the social housing sector to overcome including:


  • Not all landlords have adopted a positive complaint handling culture
  • The need to increase trust among residents that complaining will make a difference
  • Procedural failings with high uphold rates in complaint handling
  • Inadequate records with poor record keeping being a common finding
  • Missed or unproductive appointments
  • Poor communication and lack of follow up.


A full copy of the Housing Ombudsman's Annual Complaints Review is available on the Housing Ombudsman's website.

As previously reported the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is running a campaign to raise awareness of, and confidence in, the social housing complaint making process. The campaign, which is running throughout March 2022, includes adverts on social media, radio and search engines guiding residents towards the campaign webpage and helping tenants get the right help and support. DLUHC has also produced a stakeholder toolkit which includes posters and leaflets to help councils promote the social housing complaints campaign in their area.


ARCH Chief Executive John Bibby comments:

"Social housing providers can expect a continued focus by both the Housing Ombudsman and the Regulator of Social Housing on customer care and the way they handle complaints. This latest report by the Housing Ombudsman highlights that 2/3rd of complaints investigated by the Housing Ombudsman have not been handled appropriately. This high "failure rate" demonstrates the need for social housing providers to continue to review and improve their complaint handling procedures to ensure that all complaints are handled quickly and appropriately. 


Councils should ensure that complaints are prioritised and valued and that staff dealing with complaints are adequately trained and supported. ARCH will look at what more we can do to support our members in embedding a culture that prioritises complaints by sharing best practice across the sector".  

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