Complain about a council or housing association

You can complain to:

  • the council or housing association first

  • an ombudsman if you're not happy with the response

An ombudsman is a free, independent service that can resolve complaints.

Examples: things you can complain about

  • long delays and bad service

  • bad communication or rudeness

  • unfair treatment or discrimination

  • staff not following the law or their own policies

  • not giving you information that you can easily understand

When to ask for a review instead

Sometimes it's better to ask for a review before making a complaint.

You usually have to ask for a review with 3 weeks of a written decision from the council.

You can ask for a review of a decision about:

The council usually does the review. Some councils pass this responsibility to a housing association or other organisation.

You can still complain if you're not happy with the outcome of your review.

Complain to the council or housing association

Social landlords must make it easy for tenants and leaseholders to complain in different ways. For example:

  • in person

  • over the phone

  • by email or letter

  • through their website

You can find your council complaints team on GOV.UK

Search for the right team at your housing association on their website.

Keep records

For example:

  • emails or letters you send or receive

  • complaint or case reference numbers

  • a note of any missed appointments or call backs

If you speak to someone, keep a record of what is said and who you speak to.

The council or housing association response

They must write in clear plain language and give:

  • a decision and reasons

  • details of any offer to put things right or actions they will take

  • information on how to take your complaint to the next stage if you are not happy

Complaints stages and timescales

Ask for a copy of the complaints process.

Councils and housing associations should have a 2 stage complaints process for their tenants and leaseholders.

This means someone should respond to your complaint at stage 1. You can take it to stage 2 if you're not happy with that response.

They should respond to a:

  • stage 1 complaint in 10 working days

  • stage 2 complaint in 20 working days

Some councils and housing associations might have a longer complaints process but the Housing Ombudsman recommends this process.

Complain to an ombudsman

You can complain to an ombudsman about both:

  • the original problem or bad service

  • how your complaint was dealt with

Wait for a final response from the council or housing association.

You can go to an ombudsman if you're not happy with the final response.

You usually need to contact the ombudsman within a year of the response.

Which ombudsman?

You can complain to either the:

  • Housing Ombudsman

  • Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO)

Which one depends on what the original problem was.

Sometimes the 2 organisations work together to look into a complaint.

Housing Ombudsman

Social housing tenants and leaseholders can complain to the Housing Ombudsman.

This ombudsman looks at complaints about:

  • damp and repairs

  • disability adaptions

  • rent and service charges

  • tenancy rights and eviction

  • non urgent housing transfers

  • home swaps and mutual exchange

  • leaseholder problems

  • complaints processes

Check the full list of what the Housing Ombudsman can look at.

How to complain to the Housing Ombudsman

You can use the Housing Ombudsman online complaint form.

If you cannot use the form you can:

  • phone them on 0300 111 3000

  • email:

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO)

Anyone can complain to the LGCSO if you've had a bad service from the council.

This ombudsman looks at complaints about:

  • homeless applications

  • urgent housing transfers

  • overcrowded housing

  • housing register applications and bands

  • housing benefit administration

  • no safety inspections of private rented housing (HHSRS)

  • lack of enforcement of private housing safety and repairs

  • poor response to reported harassment or illegal eviction

Check the full list of what the LGSCO can look at.

How to complain to the LGSCO

You can use the LGSCO online complaint form.

If you cannot use the form you can phone them on 0300 061 0614

What happens next

The ombudsman decides if they can look into the complaint.

They write to you with reasons if they decide not to investigate. 

The Housing Ombudsman may try to solve problems within 2 months without a formal investigation using their early resolution process.

Most cases are decided within 6 months. A formal investigation can take up to a year.

The ombudsman can ask everyone involved for more information.

Ombudsman decision

The ombudsman writes to you with their decision when the investigation is complete.

They often publish an anonymised version of the decision on their website.   

If the ombudsman upholds your complaint, they could ask the council to:

  • apologise

  • pay some compensation

  • improve their procedures

  • make a decision or provide a service that they should have done

The council does not legally have to follow an ombudsman decision but they usually do.

Last updated: 5 June 2023

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