In this article
• The purpose of the housing ombudsman service (HOS)
• The HOS process
• How to make a complaint using the HOS
In an ideal world, the tenant and landlord relationship is harmonious and beneficial to both parties; the landlord provides safe, suitable accommodation for the tenants who receive value for money and take good care of a property they can call home. In reality, renting is a business transaction where differences of opinion and disagreements often occur.
The Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) is a dispute resolution service that was set up to help landlords and tenants resolve disputes without going to court. The service is free, independent and impartial to all tenants and landlords. Membership is compulsory for all housing associations and local authorities but is voluntary for private landlords.
The main values of the service are working together, integrity, solution-focus, excellence and respect. They offer support to the people who contact the service and treat everyone as individuals, respecting their backgrounds and needs.
The three step process
There are three steps involved in making a complaint using the housing ombudsman service.
• Step 1 – Landlords and tenants should aim to develop and maintain a good relationship through effective communication. When differences occur they should work together to create a positive outcome at the earliest opportunity. If this is not possible then the tenant can make a formal complaint to the landlord.
All landlords have a complaints procedure that should be easy to use, fair and is designed to put things right. The landlord should take this opportunity to resolve the complaint as quickly as possible and improve their services.
• Step 2 – If the landlord does not respond appropriately to the complaint then the tenant needs to contact a ‘designated person’ using the directory on the housing ombudsman service website. This may be an MP, local councilor or a tenant panel person.
Designated people are trained in dispute resolution and will work with the tenant and the landlord to resolve the situation respectfully.
• Step 3 – If the designated person is unable to resolve the matter 8 weeks from the end of the landlord’s complaint process then they will refer the complaint to the ombudsman.
The housing ombudsman will contact both parties to explore how the complaint can be resolved locally to resolve the complaint. It may decide to work more directly with the landlord, tenant or designated person. In cases when a complaint cannot be resolved locally they will carry out an investigation.
How to make a complaint using the HOS
After you have used your landlord’s complaints procedure, it is possible to make a phone call to the HOS and discuss the complaint informally. If you decide to continue with a formal complaint, an online form submitted or downloaded and sent in the post. This give the HSO permission to contact your landlord. The HSO will accept a letter or a phone call as a formal complaint but before they can consider the matter further you must provide your signed permission to contact the landlord.
When the HOS is unable to help with a complaint
By law, the HOS can only deal with complaints about member landlords. Private landlords may join on a voluntary basis, so it is always a good idea to ask potential landlords if they are a member.
It is important to note that the HOS deals with complaints about how a landlord has responded to reports of a problem in line with the tenancy agreement; they do not look at the original problem that was reported by the tenant.
The HOS does not take on any cases that have already been through a court of law as their purpose is to prevent this through conflict resolution.
There are some complaints that the HOS may not be able to consider; these decisions are made at the Ombudsman’s discretion.
Where to go for help
Visit the housing ombudsman website for more information or to download a form:
http://www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/ or phone 0300 111 3000 Monday to Friday
This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.
We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our All advice category.
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