Housing Ombudsman Service
The role of the Housing Ombudsman is to resolve disputes either directly or by encouraging early and local complaint case resolution.
When handling a complaint the Ombudsman expects the landlord to:
a) Be fair – treat people fairly and follow fair processes
b) Put things rights
c) Learn from outcomes
From April 2016 the Housing Ombudsman Service are piloting a new approach in complaints being resolved locally. The Housing Ombudsman Service are working with complainants and landlords to see if cases can be resolved as 'early resolution'.
- This only applies only to complaint cases which have completed the landlord's complaints process
- Landlords and Customers now have an option to have the Housing Ombudsman service assist with what is termed ‘early resolution’
- Both parties must agree to this otherwise the case will go forward for investigation
- There is a limit of two months to reach an agreeable solution during which the Ombudsman service will offer focussed support to reach a resolution
- There will be a determination made by the Housing Ombudsman at that stage to reflect the agreed solution
- If an agreement/solution cannot be reached within the two month period the case will go forward for investigation.
Full details are in the Factsheet here.
The Housing Ombudsman Service has launched a free e-learning training package. By completing this training you will be able to understand what is meant by a fair outcome, and recognise how your actions contribute to a fair outcome.
Please click here for more information on the Housing Ombudsman Service including how to register and start the course.
Housing Ombudsman Service Case Digests
- Case 1 – Tenancy Management and Service Charges
Mrs X submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman about the way Orbit had managed her lease, including day-to-day management of the estate where she lived and accounting issues.
The complaints panel hearing, which took place under Orbit’s former complaints policy, focused on:
- Mrs X’s difficulties in contacting staff
- the lack of notification around change of management at the estate in question
- errors in service charges and changes to direct debit
- contractors notifying of intended works and letters not signed or dated
The complaints panel concluded that the issues raised had been addressed during the complaints procedure. It was accepted that Mrs X should have been given a choice on the repayment of the overpayment on service charges however, in conclusion, the overall complaint was not upheld as the complaints panel members felt that Orbit staff had dealt with the complaint satisfactorily.
An outcome of ‘no maladministration/no service failure’ was received from the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman said they “…will not make a finding against a landlord which has used its complaints procedure to improve its original service and to learn from the complaint so that similar issues are avoided in the future. We expect landlords to handle complaints using our dispute resolution principles. These ask that landlords are fair, put things right and learn from the complaint”. The Ombudsman identified that this had been done during this complaint.
- Case 2 – Anti Social Behaviour and Tenancy Management
Mr Y made a complaint to the Ombudsman relating to the action Orbit had taken to his reports of anti-social behaviour and parking problems in the communal parking area.
The complaints panel hearing which took place under Orbit’s former complaints policy met with Mr Y.
- Mr Y informed the panel that he felt he remained a victim of anti-social behaviour and he wished for the relentless intimidation to stop
- He wished to move to a private rented ground floor property and requested financial assistance from Orbit to enable and support a move
The complaints panel reached a decision that Mr Y’s complaint was not upheld. The panel concluded that officers had investigated Mr Y’s reports of anti-social behaviour with appropriate responses and action, based on the evidence available. The panel also determined that officers, working with other agencies, had actively sought to seek permanent solutions to the on-going situation, and in doing so had adhered to policy. The panel noted and supported Orbit’s previous offer of help with the cost of removals via Orbit’s under occupation incentive scheme, together with the offer to help with the disposal of any unwanted items and assistance with the clearing of Mr Y’s home, if required.
An outcome of ‘no maladministration/no service failure’ was received from the Ombudsman.
Having investigated the allegations relating to anti-social behaviour the Ombudsman concluded ‘that the Association [Orbit] offered appropriate redress to satisfactorily resolve the complaint’. In relation to the parking problems the Ombudsman stated ‘‘the Group (Orbit) dealt with the parking issues in an appropriate manner. It wrote to residents about the parking arrangements, conducted a survey and made significant changes to the customer’s parking bay to make it more accessible.’
- Case 3 – Repairs
Mrs Z made a complaint to the Ombudsman about Orbit’s handling of her request to undertake a loft conversation at her property and the poor communication and conflicting advice she had been given. This led to her request to recover costs for drawings and calculations for a proposed loft conversation totalling £1543.
The complaints panel hearing which took place under Orbit’s former complaints policy met with Mrs Z.
- Mrs Z requested the Association reimburse accrued costs of £1543
- She also asked for an additional £750 in recognition of time spent dealing with this issue and the number of telephone calls and emails made
The panel recognised and accepted the period of time that Orbit failed to communicate effectively with Mrs Z and the considerable confusion which occurred regarding the refusal and then subsequent acceptance of loft conversion proposals. £100 was awarded by the panel in acknowledgement that Orbit failed to meet service standards in terms of delays of communication. However, the panel did not agree it appropriate to cover the costs for drawings and calculations. The panel considered that the decision not to proceed was Mrs Z’s personal decision due to a change in personal circumstances and the loft conversion was no longer required.
An outcome of no maladministration was received from the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman advised the refusal to reimburse the customer for the costs of the drawings and costs of engineer calculations was not unreasonable and that the offer of £100 compensation made during the complaint process for the inconvenience arising from how Orbit communicated with the customer was proportionate.
- Case 4 - Repairs and Planned Works
Mr A complained to the Ombudsman about Orbit’s handling of aids and adaption works and various associated repairs.
Orbit investigated the complaint in line with its former complaints policy; the complaint was partially upheld. Orbit accepted there had been errors in communicating with Mr A surrounding the initial adaption works including timescales for completion. In light of this a new member of staff was asked to oversee all future works. On conclusion of the complaint, Orbit made an offer of compensation to Mr A which was accepted. However, Mr A progressed his complaint to the Ombudsman.
Following a lengthy review an outcome of no maladministration/no service failure was received from the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman informed Orbit that “The Association had upheld the complaint raised by the complainant during the course of it’s internal complaints procedure and offered suitable redress for the service failure. In addition the compensation offer was seen as being adequate. The Ombudsman deemed that Orbit had taken more than reasonable steps to progress the outstanding works”.
- Case 5 - Shared Ownership and Complaints Handling
Mrs B complained to the Ombudsman about Orbit’s handling of the sales process in respect of their shared ownership property. While the complaint was being progressed through Orbit’s complaints procedure, there were delays with how the outcome was communicated to Mrs B. However, in recognition of these delays Mrs B was offered compensation.
After the complaint was investigated and reviewed, Mrs B remained dissatisfied with the explanations provided by Orbit surrounding the sale of their property and progressed the complaint to the Ombudsman.
An outcome of no maladministration was received from the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman advised they were satisfied that Orbit had handled the sale of Mrs B’s home appropriately and had given suitable compensation in respect of how the complaint was handled. The Ombudsman also concluded that the delay to the sale of Mrs B’s property was not caused by Orbit’s handling of this complaint but as a result of delays in being provided with the mortgage details of prospective buyers which was outside their control.
- Case 6 - Complaints Handling and Tenancy Issues
Mr C complained to the Ombudsman about Orbit’s response to reports of outstanding repairs to the communal areas of the building and at his home:
- The standard of cleaning and maintenance in the communal areas of the building
- The Association’s complaints handling
Orbit investigated the complaint in line with its former complaints policy and the case was also heard by a complaints panel. The complaint was upheld and compensation offered for the poor service. Additionally a number of actions and recommendations were made by the complaints panel including the need for a review of the repairs service, the creation of a specialist repairs team in Orbit’s Customer Service Centre and a review of Orbit’s complaints and compensation policies and procedures. However, Mr C progressed his complaint to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman initially referred the complaint back to Orbit for local resolution as it believed there was opportunity for both Orbit and Mr C to work together and resolve ongoing and new issues. Orbit met Mr C and agreed an action plan, however, Mr C requested the Ombudsman further investigate his complaint.
An outcome of no maladministration/no service failure was received from the Ombudsman. It was highlighted that Orbit had satisfactorily addressed the issues raised in the complaint, had demonstrated that it had put things right and learnt from the outcome of the complaint as well as making an appropriate offer of compensation to Mr C.