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Housing Ombudsman issues guidance for landlords on responding to complaints

The Housing Ombudsman has published new guidance notes aimed at assisting landlords with policies and in responding to complaints.

These guides cover the key elements the Ombudsman would expect to see in landlords’ policies and will help landlords to develop their policies to reflect what it considers to be best practice.

They include:

  • Complaints policy
  • Compensation policy
  • Anti-social behaviour policy
  • Managing unacceptable behaviour policy

The Ombudsman has also developed guidance for landlords on responding to a complaint. It includes a list for landlords when investigating and responding to complaints through their complaints procedure and offers advice on issues the Ombudsman expects them to consider when responding to a complaint.

As part of the new guidance the Ombudsman has produced an example of a response to complaints letter.

The guidance says the Ombudsman encourages the local resolution of complaints at the earliest possible stage and promotes landlords’ complaints procedures as a means through which this can be achieved.

“We generally expect landlords to use every stage of their complaints procedure as a genuine opportunity to try and resolve a dispute with a resident. While we cannot make a formal decision on a case which is going through a complaint procedure, we can offer support and advice to both parties where necessary,” it adds.

The Ombudsman notes that some landlords’ policies exclude certain issues from their complaints procedures. It says it encourages landlords to take all issues, “or as wide a range as possible”, through their formal complaint procedures.

“Failure to do so could result in a finding of ‘maladministration’ or ‘service failure’ from the Ombudsman. If an issue is excluded, the landlord should clearly explain this and provide its reasons in writing to the complainant. It should also advise residents of their right to approach the Housing Ombudsman Service if they disagree with the decision,” the guidance says.

“Every stage of the complaints procedure is important and should be used to conduct a thorough investigation and try and find a solution to a dispute. A landlord’s final response to a complaint is a key document as it is often the final opportunity for a landlord to resolve a complaint. If a complainant remains dissatisfied following the final response, they may refer the complaint to us for investigation.”

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