Complain about councils and housing associations

Complain about services from your council or housing association.

What you can complain about

You can complain if you receive a bad service such as:

  • long delays

  • rudeness of staff

  • poor communication

  • failure to carry out legal obligations

When to ask for a review instead

Sometimes you can ask for a formal review of a decision if you think it's wrong.

You can ask for a review of a decision on a:

You can still complain after your review has been dealt with.

How to complain to the council

Complaints might be dealt with by a central department such as customer services.

Or you might need to contact the service responsible, for example, housing or housing benefit.

You can usually:

  • complain by online form

  • send your complaint by phone, email or letter

Keep copies of any documents you send.

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

What happens next

Usually an officer who was not involved with the original problem investigates the complaint. They may ask for more details. 

When the investigation is done, the council writes to you to explain:

  • their final decision and the reasons for it

  • what to do if you're still not satisfied

You could also contact your local councillor or MP about your problem. They might refer your complaint to the Housing Ombudsman if you're a council tenant or leaseholder.

How to complain to your housing association

Check your housing association's website or call to find out how to complain.

You could also send them a letter or email about your problem.

They should should say how long it will take to deal with your complaint.

Complain to an ombudsman service

An ombudsman is a free, independent service for solving disputes and complaints.

It can consider a complaint that has not been resolved through the council or housing association's complaints system.

Which ombudsman to complain to

The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman looks at complaints about council services generally, including:

  • homeless and waiting list applications

  • housing benefit services

Contact them if:

  • you're unhappy with the council's response to your complaint

  • you haven't received a response 12 weeks after you made your complaint

The Housing Ombudsman looks at complaints from council and housing association tenants and leaseholders about problems like:

  • repairs

  • rent and service charges

  • occupancy rights

Contact them if:

  • you're unhappy with the council or housing association's final response to your complaint

  • 8 weeks have passed since you received it

A local councillor or MP can refer your case to the Housing Ombudsman earlier so you could contact them first.

An ombudsman won't usually take the case if it's more than a year since your final response from the council or housing association.

What happens next

The ombudsman decides if they can investigate. They write to you with reasons if they decide not to. 

The Housing Ombudsman can try to resolve some problems in 2 months without an investigation.

If a formal investigation takes place it can take up to a year. Most cases are decided within 6 months. 

Ombudsman decisions

The ombudsman writes to you with their decision when the investigation is complete. They usually also 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 that they should have done

  • 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: 9 January 2022

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