New housing complaints service to be launched

25 January 2019   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

The Housing Complaints Resolution Service will cover the whole housing market, including homeowners, landlords and tenants.

It is designed to ensure that everyone knows where to turn when something goes wrong with their home.

Currently, the housing complaints system is fragmented, and residents are left frustrated by the bureaucracy involved in making a complaint.

The Government also announced that private landlords will be required to become members of a redress scheme to ensure that all tenants have a mechanism for complaining.

housing complaint cold broken boiler

New simple system for all

The resolution service will act as a gateway for complaints across the housing market, serving as the first step towards complaint resolution for millions of homeowners, landlords and tenants.

It means that homeowners faced with a problem in their new build home will access the same service as tenants seeking help to get essential repairs done on their privately-rented home.

Evidence received by the Government during a consultation found that 50% of individuals had made a complaint relating to the management or maintenance of a property.

However, 36% of individual respondents said they did not know how to make a complaint.

Multiple complaints organisations were used by individuals, and 57% were given the lowest service rating of "very poor". Only 12% of complainants reported that the service they received had been average or above.

The Housing Complaints Resolution Service will streamline the complaints system and reduce the possibility of complainants being confused about where to turn.

Landlords and developers targeted

One issue flagged up in the consultation was that landlords in the private sector aren't currently required to register with a complaints system.

That leaves tenants with no course for redress and means that some may be living in unsafe conditions due to a landlord's refusal to engage.

Within these new proposals, private landlords will be compelled to register with a complaints scheme, and will be fined up to £5,000 if they fail to comply.

Curiously, despite the streamlining of services for transparency's sake, the Communities Secretary also reiterated the Government's commitment to establishing a New Homes Ombudsman.

This will require developers to belong to the Ombudsman in a bid to protect the interests of home buyers and hold developers to account for poor builds.

Housing market still in flux

For private tenants, especially, the national market remains competitive and seemingly benefits the landlords more than the tenants.

Changes to the tax relief landlords receive on buy-to-let properties were brought in several years ago, with landlords warning that it would lead to an increase in rents.

This resulted in a dramatic decline in the number of landlords buying to let, which has the potential to lower house prices for buyers but can also mean higher rents for private tenants.

The most recent figures from the UK Residential Market in December found that the number of new landlord instructions had continued to fall while tenant demand remained high.

While this has the potential to leave tenants in substandard properties, these new regulations plus the energy inefficiency regulations announced in November 2018, may offer tenants more protection.

It remains to be seen whether these rule changes will have the desired impact on tenant experiences or whether they will simply compound the issues faced by tenants in substandard properties within areas of high demand.

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