On the 18th of February, the Government published its consultation ‘Strengthening consumer redress in the housing market’.
The calls for evidence on the home-buying process and on improving consumer experiences of lettings and managing agents both touched on redress issues. This consultation looks at the issue of redress in the housing market in more depth.
There is considerable range in redress provision for housing issues, briefly:
- Tenants of social landlords can take a complaint to the Housing Ombudsman;
- People applying for social housing or for help with homelessness and who have been through local authority complaints can take a complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman;
- Customers of letting and managing agents in the rented and leasehold sectors can take a complaint to one of three redress schemes: the Property Ombudsman, the Property Redress scheme or Ombudsman Services: Property (OS). However, OS has announced that it will undertake a managed withdrawal from complaints handling in the property sector;
- Customers of estate agents, whether they are buyers or sellers, can currently take a complaint to one of the same three schemes that cover letting and managing agents;
- Tenants of private landlords might not have access to any redress scheme. Landlords are not required to belong to a redress scheme where they provide services directly to tenants. However, a small number of private landlords have chosen to join the Housing Ombudsman scheme or one of the three private redress schemes. In October last year the Government committed to requiring landlords in the private rented sector to join a redress scheme to fill this gap;
- Park home residents currently have no access to a redress scheme; and
- Buyers of new build homes are covered by an industry led consumer code or warranty scheme which can offer resolution where things go wrong, but these do not always cover all issues;
The Government is concerned that the current landscape is confusing for consumers both in terms of the number of schemes, differences in practices, and gaps where consumers have no recourse to redress. As a consequence the consultation explores and questions:
- improving ‘in–house’ complaint processes, to ensure that issues get resolved as quickly as possible;
- the practices and functions that should be expected of redress schemes and the powers that they need to do this;
- How to fill existing gaps in redress, with a particular focus on private tenants, buyers of new build homes and leaseholders; and
- The case for streamlining and improving services for consumers through the creation of a single housing ombudsman service.
Housing issues that are dealt with by redress schemes in other sectors, such as the Financial Ombudsman Service and Legal Ombudsman, are not in scope of this consultation
Responses should be submitted no later than midnight on 16 April 2018. You are encouraged to respond by completing an online survey. Alternatively you can email your response to the questions in the consultation to – [email protected]
Written responses should be sent to: Social Housing Division Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Third Floor – Fry Building 2 Marsham Street London SW1P 4DF