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ARCH annual report


The ARCH annual report for 2015-16 is now available to view.


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Housing complaints – a recipe for confusion Matthew Warburton - 28/03/2013

complaint_woman_300Next week the Housing Ombudsman takes over responsibility for investigating complaints about the landlord functions of local authorities. The aim of this move was to provide a common and consistent approach to complaints about social housing. Unfortunately, this looks unlikely to be the result.

ARCH has a particular interest in these changes because councils with housing, whose work currently falls within the sole jurisdiction of the Local Government Ombudsman, will from 1 April be accountable to both Ombudsmen. And the dividing line between their respective responsibilities, although now clearer, remains convoluted and, in places, counter-intuitive. While no doubt based on sound legal advice, it makes little sense to non-lawyers.

During consultation on the new arrangements, ARCH asked both Ombudsmen to explain where the dividing line will run. A guide purporting to clarify the position has now been published on both their websites:



The guide begins by stating that the aim is that the Housing Ombudsmen 'will deal with all complaints about social housing'. But this is contradicted by what follows.

To give just one example, most complaints about housing allocations will remain with the LGO - not just those from applicants who are not currently council tenants, but also complaints from tenants seeking transfers on grounds specified in Part VI of the Housing Act 1996 - overcrowding or unsatisfactory housing conditions, medical or welfare grounds, or that their accommodation is no longer reasonable to occupy.

Nor do the arrangements deliver consistency for council and housing association tenants. Complaints from housing association tenants about the Right to Buy go to the HO while those from council tenants will remain with the LGO.

A second consequence of the new arrangements is that, regardless of the precise demarcation between the HO and LGO, many complaints will cross jurisdictions and potentially involve both. The HO and LGO have promised a protocol on how they will work together, but this has not yet appeared.

One must assume that this guidance is based on an authoritative interpretation of the relevant legislation. But it is hard to believe this outcome is what legislators had in mind when the Localism Bill was debated in Parliament.

There is a strong case for amending legislation at the earliest opportunity to simplify and improve the demarcation. Meanwhile we look to the Ombudsmen to work with ARCH and others to help council understand the new system and, in turn, explain it to the 'designated persons', whether councillors, MPs or recognised tenants' panels, who will have a role only in relation to complaints under the jurisdiction of the HO, and, even more importantly, to the tenants and residents who want swift and effective action to resolve their complaints.

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