Tenant complaints to the Housing Ombudsman Service
Information about complaining to the Housing Ombudsman Service about a registered provider of social housing.
- Role of the Housing Ombudsman Service
- The HOS jurisdiction
- Who can complain to the HOS
- How to complain to the HOS
- Types of complaints to the HOS
- Designated persons for complaint to the Ombudsman
- Designated tenant panels
- Time limits for complaints to the HOS
- Housing Ombudsman dispute resolution service
- Housing Ombudsman decisions
- HOS referrals to the regulator of social housing
Role of the Housing Ombudsman Service
The Housing Ombudsman Service considers complaints about registered providers of social housing in England, including local authorities in respect of their landlord functions.
The Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) is independent and impartial. The service is free of charge.
HOS can decide whether a registered provider of social housing in England has been responsible for maladministration while carrying out its landlord functions. The Ombudsman may investigate complaints and, if they find in favour of the complainant, may require the provider to take steps to put things right or to compensate the complainant. Maladministration may include neglect and unjustified delay; malice, bias or unfair discrimination; providing inaccurate or misleading advice.
The HOS also promotes good practice and supports landlords and tenants to resolve disputes between themselves.
Anonymised reports of HOS investigations are available from the Housing Ombudsman Service.
The HOS jurisdiction
All registered providers of social housing in England must be members of the HOS.
The HOS can consider complaints against:
local authorities in respect of their landlord functions
private registered providers of social housing (PRPSH) – principally housing associations
arm's length management organisations (ALMOs), and
certain private landlords and management agents who have agreed voluntarily to be subject to the HOS, for example, some unregistered subsidiaries of registered providers and some charities providing housing
The HOS and Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman have arrangements in place for transferring cases between them and working together on cases of overlapping jurisdiction.
Who can complain to the HOS
Anyone who is or was in a landlord or tenant relationship with a registered provider of social housing in England can make a complaint to the HOS. This includes people who have or had:
a licence to occupy
a service agreement, or
any other arrangement to occupy premises owned or managed by the provider
Representatives of any of the above can make a complaint on their behalf.
How to complain to the HOS
A person with a complaint can contact the HOS at an early stage of their complaint, as the HOS encourages early, local resolution of disputes.
The HOS does not usually begin a formal investigation until the complainant has exhausted the provider's internal complaint procedure.
If the person following the internal complaint procedure remains dissatisfied, they can:
refer their complaint to a designated person who will try to resolve the complaint locally and if unsuccessful will refer the complaint to the HOS
complain directly to the HOS, but only if one of the following applies:
eight weeks have elapsed since the internal complaints procedure was exhausted
a designated person refused to refer the complaint to the HOS
a designated person agreed in writing that the complainant could complain directly to the HOS
Types of complaints to the HOS
The HOS can consider the following types of complaints.
This includes complaints about terms and conditions of a tenancy, succession and assignment, ending a tenancy (for example notice periods), abandonment of property, possession proceedings.
Moving to a property
This includes complaints about transfer applications that fall outside the statutory regime (complaints about allocations and transfers under Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996 fall under the LGO's jurisdiction), type of tenancy offered, mutual exchange, decision whether to renew a fixed-term tenancy, decants, mobility schemes.
Condition of property
This includes complaints about condition of the property when first let, repairs, planned maintenance, improvement works carried out by landlord or tenant, disabled adaptations.
This includes complaints about antisocial behaviour, noise nuisance, harassment
This includes complaints about maintenance of communal areas, use of communal areas, boundary issues, maintenance of grounds, parking
Landlords' complaint handling
This includes complaints about the handling of a complaint under then landlord's complaints procedure, including delays.
These include complaints about home loss payments, disturbance payments, compensation for improvements carried out by the tenant/occupier, payment for damage to property or tenant's belongings, discretionary payments or goodwill gestures under the landlord's compensation policy.
These include complaints about shared ownership, sales processes for leasehold properties owned by housing associations, right to buy and right to acquire for tenants of housing associations only (complaints about the right to buy for local authority tenants fall under the LGO's jurisdiction), repair responsibilities under the lease, mortgage rescue schemes, leasehold services provided by the landlord.
Designated persons for complaint to the Ombudsman
Designated tenant panels
A designated tenant panel is a group of tenants formed for the purpose of referring complaints to the HOS. It is recognised by registered providers of social housing. Each registered provider may recognise more than one panel and it must provide the HOS with each recognised panel's contact details.
The HOS must maintain a list of all recognised designated tenant panels.
Registered providers of social housing do not have to set up designated tenant panels but must support their formation and activities if their tenants want them.
Time limits for complaints to the HOS
The HOS does not start formal investigations into complaints that are:
made prior to having exhausted a registered provider's complaints procedure (although there are exceptions when a complainant has been prevented from completing the complaints procedure)
referred directly to the HOS by the complainant (except in the situations allowed)
brought to the HOS's attention more than 12 months after the complainant has exhausted the provider's complaints procedure
brought to the attention of the registered provider as a formal complaint after a reasonable period has elapsed, which would normally be within 6 months of the matters to which the complaint relates
Although formal investigation is subject to the above time scales, the HOS will intervene in a dispute at an early stage in order to facilitate early resolution.
Housing Ombudsman dispute resolution service
The HOS aims to secure a fair outcome within all of the circumstances of each case, having regard to legal standards, good practice and regulatory requirements.
The HOS may award compensation even in the absence of any particular loss if there has been a lack of fairness in how a complainant has been treated.
By supporting parties to make the best use of local processes, and by providing advice and guidance as well as intervention, the HOS aims to achieve early, local resolutions.
Housing Ombudsman decisions
The HOS may decide to:
reject the complaint
recommend that the landlord follows a course of action, such as apologise to the complainant, pay compensation, carry out (or not carry out) works, or to take any other reasonable step to secure redress
The HOS expects landlords to comply with its determinations, and may require evidence to demonstrate compliance. Where a landlord fails to comply with a recommendation, the HOS may make an enforceable order requiring its determination to be followed.
HOS referrals to the regulator of social housing
The HOS or any designated person can refer issues of regulatory concern about a registered provider to the Regulator of social housing.
The Regulator will investigate complaints if either:
the complaint provides evidence or grounds to suspect systemic failure against one or more of the its standards
it raises serious regulatory concerns, such as an immediate/potential risk to a tenant's or a number of tenants' health and safety, an allegation of mismanagement or fraud, or a significant risk to the reputation of the sector
Last updated: 22 March 2021
The Localism Act 2011 (Commencement No. 2 and Transitional Provisions) Order 2013 SI 2013/722 (C. 33).
para 7A, Sch. 2, Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.180 Localism Act 2011.
para 7B, Sch. 2, Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.180 Localism Act 2011.
s.181 Localism Act 2011.
para 7A(3), Sch. 2, Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.180 Localism Act 2011.
para 7C, Sch. 2, Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.180 Localism Act 2011.