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Ombudsman calls for stronger regulation of managing agents

22nd March 2022

Today the Housing Ombudsman (HO) published its ‘Spotlight Report on: Landlords’ engagement with private freeholders and managing agents’ . The report forms part of a series reports from HO where it puts the spotlight on issues identified through the complaints it has investigated and resolved.

The Ombudsman examined 62 cases investigated over one year where the landlord had to engage managing agents and private freeholders to resolve issues. It found a high level of maladministration at 64.5% in those cases, about a third higher than the average for casework in the same period. Cases included in the report highlight the real-life experiences of residents, including the repeated loss of hot water during winter, leaking roofs and unexplained service charges, and demonstrate the immense frustration felt by residents.

The recommendations made in the report include:

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said:

“Our report shows that the relationship between social landlords and managing agents is often strained and, at worst, dysfunctional. Landlords often feel a tension between their social objectives and the business objectives of some managing agents and some of the freeholders that appoint them. This tension can result in deep unfairness for residents.

“Without a standalone regulator driving consistency and improvement, the managing agent sector presents significant challenges and risks to social landlords. As well as raising awareness of these challenges, we also want this report to support landlords to assess how well their own approach is working, identify areas to make improvements, and encourage greater collaboration to overcome some of these challenges.

“Through our casework we have noticed an increasingly complex landscape with many and varied arrangements. There is often confusion, not just for the resident, but also the landlord and third-party managing agent and/or freeholder as to responsibilities.

“Central to this is accountability. Residents should be able to hold the professionals that are responsible for the quality, safety and management of their homes to account for ensuring that defects and repairs are resolved and that their complaints are handled in a timely manner. In turn, landlords should also be able to hold third party freeholders and managing agents to account in relation to discharging their responsibilities.

“I would encourage landlords to consider the learning provided by this report and set out how they may do things differently using our self-assessment questions as the basis.”

The Government is committed to promoting fairness and transparency for tenants and homeowners and making sure that consumers are protected from abuse and poor service. This commitment includes raising professionalism and standards amongst property agents, protecting consumers while defending the reputation of good agents from the actions of rogue operatives.

Other information:

LEASE is governed by a board, appointed as individuals by the Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities.