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Ombudsman finds 323% rise in severe maladministration findings

The Housing Ombudsman’s Annual Complaints Review has revealed a sharp increase of severe maladministration findings.

Individual performance reports were published for 163 landlords where the Ombudsman made most findings.

Together, they paint a challenging picture of social housing complaints which has seen a huge spike due to poor property conditions, legislative changes, media attention and the inquest into the death of Awaab Ishak.

The review also reveals an increase in maladministration findings where service requests were not handled reasonably and a decrease in findings of no fault. Combined this means more than half of findings were upheld for the first time.

The Annual Complaints Review provides a unique and comprehensive assessment of complaints in social housing, including that the Ombudsman received over 5,000 complaints for the first time last year, a 28% increase on the previous year.

The Ombudsman has again written to Chief Executives of landlords who have a maladministration rate of over 50% to bring urgent attention to the figures. There are 91 landlords with a maladministration rate above 50%, with 25 landlords being above 75%.

However, this year the Ombudsman is also writing to five landlords who had no findings upheld, recognising their positive complaint handling approach.

The Review also looks at Complaint Handling Failure Orders (CHFOs) and key issues for the first time.

The Ombudsman issued 146 CHFOs last year, mostly for failing to progress complaints in line with its Complaint Handling Code, with 73% of those being for landlords with over 10,000 homes.

Most worryingly for the Ombudsman is the overall trend in the sector, with a 323% increase in severe maladministration findings, a 40% increase in maladministration findings and 20% drop in no maladministration findings.

In terms of what residents were complaining about, property condition was once again the leading category, with the Ombudsman making almost 2,000 findings where the failure rate has increased dramatically from 39% to 54% this year.

The Ombudsman also found a 52% maladministration rate for health and safety complaints.

Another key element of the Annual Complaints Review is the regional data. This has shown the South West as having the lowest overall maladministration rate, as well as having a significantly lower maladministration rate on health and safety complaints.

The North East and Yorkshire has the lowest severe maladministration rate.

London continues to be where the Ombudsman makes most of its determinations, even accounting for the quantity of social homes in the region. It had the highest maladministration rate and accounted for 77 of the 130 severe maladministration findings last year.

Running alongside the Annual Complaints Review was our landlord and resident surveys. Completed by our Resident Panel and landlords from across the country, the results show an encouraging trend towards promotion of the complaints process, signposting to the Ombudsman and sharing learning from complaints.

Residents also were more likely to believe that complaints would make a difference compared to last year.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “Our Annual Complaints Review provides a unique and sobering overview into social housing complaints in this country.

“While the statistics reflect a picture of poor practice, they also reflect the increased pressures we know that social landlords are facing with a combined housing and cost of living crisis.

“However, despite some notable efforts, what our data shows is a fundamental gap between some of the services landlords deliver and the reasonable expectations of their residents. Too often residents with disabilities or mental health needs are falling between those gaps. Too often the basics not being done properly, with straightforward communication or record keeping being missed leading to problems becoming more severe. This is leading to residents being treated unfairly and experiencing financial detriment or losing the enjoyment of their home.

“As part of the Social Housing Regulation Act our powers have increased as we will soon be issuing wider orders to help landlords improve their policy and practice in key areas where we see potential for repeated failings.

“Next year, we will also be looking at developing good practice under our Centre for Learning and strongly encourage governing bodies to consider the review and what further action they can take to improve the outcomes for their residents.”


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