From April 2013 the
Housing Ombudsman will take over the handling of complaints from
council tenants and other housing customers. Earlier this week he
on a draft Scheme for the new service.
The two key changes included in the new scheme are its extension
to include council landlords and amendments to reflect the creation
of Designated Persons, as introduced by the Localism Act. Designated
Persons can be a local district councillor, the local MP or a
designated Tenants Panel.
The system for handling housing complaints is proposed to have
three stages: all landlords to whom the Scheme applies are expected
to have their own system for handling complaints; complainants who
are not satisfied with the outcome of this stage can raise their
complaint with a Designated Person.
The Ombudsman will not normally consider a complaint unless it has
already been through these two stages, or if eight weeks has
elapsed since the end of the first stage.
The Scheme will apply equally to council landlords and other
Registered Providers (RPs), except for two important differences.
The Ombudsman's work in relation to councils will be funded from
DCLG grant, while other RPs are expected to pay a per-property levy
for the service.
The other difference is that while the Housing Ombudsman has
powers to take up complaints about pretty much any aspect of a
housing association's activities, his remit in relation to councils
is confined to "housing activities, insofar as they relate to the
provision and management of social housing".
Other aspects of a council's work, including non-landlord housing
activities, remain within the purview of the Local Government
ARCH will be submitting comments on the draft
Scheme by the response date of 15 December, and I
would ask any member council which has views they want to see
included to send them to me by the end of November.
I see little to quarrel with in the Ombudsman's proposals, which
focus, as they should on quick and effective resolution of
complaints, wherever possible at local level without the need to
involve the Ombudsman.
I agree with the Ombudsman when he says, in the consultation
document: "We recognise that there are some complaints that are
better dealt with by the designated persons and not by us".
There is, however, one issue on which the Scheme is silent and
which may cause difficulties if not given some consideration - that
is complaints which go wider than landlord services and therefore
potentially involve both the Housing and the Local Government
Some reassurance is needed that there will be effective
arrangements for cooperation and coordination to avoid the
potential risk of parallel investigations and duplication.
Please post your comments below, or contact
Matthew on: firstname.lastname@example.org.