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New expectations for high-quality complaint handling

Posted on 19 November 2020

In July 2020, the Housing Ombudsman Service published a new Complaint Handling Code setting out new expectations for high-quality complaint handling and greater consistency across landlords’ complaints procedures.

Landlords are asked to self-assess against the Code by 31 December 2020 and to publish the results, which we will do before the end of the year. The Ombudsman has also introduced new Complaint Handling Failure Orders. If landlords make mistakes in their complaint handling, the Ombudsman can issue these from 1 January 2021.

We already comply with much of the new Code following the extensive consultation we did in 2019, when we changed our policy and procedure to move to a two-stage complaints process.

However, our approach will need to change in order to demonstrate that we meet all the new expectations. We will need to revise our policy and procedure in response. There are two important aspects of the Code which require us to review our current approach:

1. Universal definition of a complaint

The Housing Ombudsman is clear that any service recovery, early resolution or informal process is welcome, but it must be a matter of choice for the customer whether to accept this or request the formal process. We have already agreed with the Resident Inspection team that we will change our process to incorporate ‘service recovery’ within the complaint process, so we are not expecting customers to understand internal processes.

2. Timeframe for responses

The Ombudsman expects us to deliver a 10-working day response time for stage 1 complaints from the date of receipt. A further 10-working days is allowable by exception if an explanation is given of the reason why more time is needed. Our current target time to resolve a complaint, agreed in customer consultation, is 20 working days.

Paul Singleton, Director of Customer Experience said: “We are now working on how we can make these changes so our complaints process works better for customers and meets the requirements of the Housing Ombudsman. This will involve us talking to customers about how the new process will work in practice. This work will be completed in December with a view to implementing any changes in January 2021.

We share the Ombudsman’s ambition for a prompt, fair and polite complaints service. If we do get things wrong in our service, we will say sorry and work with our customers to put them right.”

Please remember, you can contact the Housing Ombudsman Service for advice and guidance, even if you are not sure about whether you want to make a complaint.

You can find more information on the Housing Ombudsman Service website  and view details of our current process and our performance on our website.