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Ombudsman sees record levels of complaint handling failure

The Housing Ombudsman has published its latest Complaint Handling Failure Order (CHFO) report, issuing 52 CHFOs between July and September.
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These orders help landlords deliver the Complaint Handling Code and deliver resolution of complaints, helping them identify any issues that could prevent residents experiencing a positive complaints process.

The orders are issued for non-compliance with the Code or Scheme, typically where landlords have not progressed a resident’s complaint through their own procedure or provided evidence to the Ombudsman to support an investigation.

Although the number of orders have increased overall, there was an encouraging decrease in the percentage of those that were non-compliant, moving from 42% in the previous quarter down to 27%.

And whilst the Ombudsman is still getting 100% compliance with the orders that it sets out to landlords after an investigation, there was a increase in the number of CHFOs it had to issue to force the landlord to provide evidence things had been put right for the resident following an investigation.

In some cases, orders have been issued on new complaints to landlords where the Ombudsman has already had to do intervention work.

On the back of this, the Ombudsman has written to the landlords with more than one non-complaint CHFO.

The landlords that did not comply with its orders are: Falcon Housing Association C.I.C, Southward Housing Cooperative, Oxford City Council, Housing for Women (four CHFOs), Wilfrid East London Housing Cooperative, Poplar HARCA, Warwick District Council, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Metropolitan Thames Valley, RHP, and the Polish Retired Persons Housing Association.

For those landlords who have received more than one CHFO, the Ombudsman has added a new section to the report, sharing the learning from these cases in more detail so that other landlords do not repeat the same failings.

The report contains key lessons from all of the cases involved within the report and shares vital information and guidance around our intervention work, which limits the need for formal action.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “These orders help landlords resolve complaints themselves, so that residents trust the process and social landlords deliver the most positive and effective complaints experience of any sector.

“It is exceptional for us to issue a failure order and every one comes after several attempts to engage the landlord. The increase in the number we are issuing will be a key focus of ours as we receive our Duty to Monitor powers when the Complaint Handling Code becomes statutory next year.

“It is encouraging to see the level of non-compliance with orders reduce. This shows that although a landlord has not initially responded, the weight of the order brings them into an effective response.

“However, there are two clear themes from this report. Firstly, orders have been issued to landlords where concerns have been raised following our formal investigations and we’ve been assured changes are being made. Yet these orders relate to new complaints they were handling within the last three months. This indicates there may be more work for them to do.

“Secondly, where orders have not been complied with, landlords have often mentioned staff shortages. I have long made the case that the executive needs to ensure that complaints teams are adequately resourced, as there is no evidence complaint volumes are going to reduce in the short-term.

“It is vital landlords assess their complaints procedure as the Complaint Handling Code becomes statutory. This means ensuring its complaints team has the resources and leverage within the landlord to do its job and to ensure there is fairness for residents when making a complaint.”

Read the full report here.

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