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Handling complaints from leaseholders

Richard Blakeway
Richard Blakeway
Housing Ombudsman
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The Housing Ombudsman is going through a period of significant change. This reflects the increasing policy focus on housing redress. These changes include sharing more of our knowledge and insights with the housing sector.

We have already published a Complaint Handling Code to set standards on accessibility, consistency and speed of redress across our 2,300 member landlords. We will shortly publish a framework setting out how we will use our new powers to conduct systemic investigations. In September we published a report into an aspect of our work which is sometimes overlooked, handling complaints from leaseholders.

Issues affecting leaseholders are high profile, most recently in relation to building safety and cladding. About one in five of the complaints we receive are from a leaseholder with a council or housing association. This includes shared ownership, where the resident owns part of the home but rents the remainder from one of our members.

We examined almost 2,000 cases received between 2018 and 2020, including more than 800 formal investigations, to produce a report telling the stories of 14 residents and almost 40 recommendations for improved practice. The report also identifies 12 landlords with the highest numbers of maladministration findings.

This is part of our transparency plan which includes publishing more data, landlord reports and all our decisions. We found four in ten investigations resulted in finding some form of maladministration. However, the area of consistent concern was complaint handling itself, where we found maladministration in 72% of relevant cases.

The overriding message to our members is that leasehold needs distinct recognition within social landlords, who should organise and operate differently to make it work. Primarily, we strongly encourage landlords to consider ways to improve lease agreements at the outset. They must also strengthen systems and improve approaches to capturing and sharing knowledge and information within organisations.

Together, these actions will enable more timely responses that recognise the impact on residents, and we hope this report supports landlords to develop their services and improve the experiences of residents.

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