Tenant complaints to the Housing Ombudsman Service

Information about complaining to the Housing Ombudsman Service about a registered provider of social housing.

This content applies to England

Role of the Housing Ombudsman Service

The Housing Ombudsman Service deals with complaints about registered providers of social housing in England, including local authorities about their landlord functions.

The Housing Ombudsman is independent and impartial. The service is free of charge.

The Ombudsman can instruct the housing provider to take steps to put things right or to compensate the complainant.

The Ombudsman can decide whether a registered provider of social housing in England has been responsible for maladministration while carrying out its landlord functions.

Maladministration can include:

  • neglect and unjustified delay

  • malice or bias

  • unfair discrimination

  • providing inaccurate or misleading advice

The Ombudsman promotes good practice and supports landlords and tenants to resolve disputes between themselves.

Anonymised reports of Ombudsman investigations are available from the Housing Ombudsman Service.

Landlords covered by the Housing Ombudsman

All registered providers of social housing in England must be members of the Housing Ombudsman Serice.

The Ombudsman can consider complaints against:[1]

  • local authority landlords

  • private registered providers of social housing (housing associations)

  • arm's length management organisations (ALMOs)

  • certain private landlords and management agents who have agreed voluntarily to be subject to the Ombudsman

The Housing Ombudsman and Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman have arrangements for transferring cases between them and working together on cases of overlapping jurisdiction.

Who can complain to the Housing Ombudsman

Anyone who is or was a tenant of a registered provider of social housing in England can make a complaint to the Housing Ombudsman Service. This includes people who have or had:

  • a lease

  • a tenancy

  • a licence to occupy

  • a service agreement

  • any other arrangement to occupy premises owned or managed by the provider

How to complain to the Housing Ombudsman

The Housing Ombudsman Service does not usually begin a formal investigation until the complainant has exhausted the provider's internal complaint procedure.

The complainant can escalate their complaint to the Ombudsman once they have followed the internal complaint procedure.[2]

The complainant can contact their Member of Parliament or a local councillor for help to resolve their complaint if they prefer.

Time limits

The Housing Ombudsman Service does not start formal investigations into complaints that are made before the registered provider's complaints procedure has been followed.

The complaint must be brought to the attention of the Ombudsman within 12 months of the final response from the landlord.

Types of complaints to the Housing Ombudsman

The Housing Ombudsman can consider the following types of complaints.[3]

Occupation rights

Complaints about occupation rights include terms and conditions of a tenancy, succession, assignment, ending a tenancy (for example notice periods), abandonment of property, and possession proceedings.

Moving to a property

Complaints about occupation rights include transfer applications that fall outside Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996, type of tenancy offered, mutual exchange, the decision whether to renew a fixed-term tenancy, and mobility schemes.

Condition of property

Complaints about the condition of the property include the condition when first let, repairs, planned maintenance, improvement works carried out by the landlord or tenant, and disabled adaptations.

Tenants' behaviour

Complaints about antisocial behaviour, noise nuisance, and harassment.

Estate management

Complaints include maintenance of communal areas, use of communal areas, boundary issues, maintenance of grounds, and parking.

Landlords' complaint handling

Complaints about the handling of a complaint under the landlord's procedure, including delays.


Complaints about home loss payments, disturbance payments, compensation for improvements carried out by the occupier, payment for damage to property or tenant's belongings, discretionary payments, or goodwill gestures under the landlord's compensation policy.

Leasehold services

Complaints about shared ownership, sales processes for leasehold properties owned by housing associations, repair responsibilities under the lease, and leasehold services provided by the landlord.

Housing Ombudsman decisions

The Housing Ombudsman Service could either reject the complaint or recommend that the landlord follows a course of action.

A recommended course of action could include the landlord:

  • apologising to the complainant

  • paying compensation

  • carrying out (or not carrying out) works

  • taking any other reasonable step to secure redress

The Ombudsman expects landlords to comply with its determinations, and can ask for evidence of compliance.

HOS referrals to the regulator of social housing

The Housing Ombudsman Service can refer issues of regulatory concern about a registered provider to the Regulator of social housing.

The regulator will investigate a complaint if it:

  • provides evidence or grounds to suspect systemic failure against one or more of the its standards

  • 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

Relationship between social housing regulator and housing Ombudsman

The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 introduced new provisions to strengthen the respective roles and improve the relationship between the regulator and the Ombudsman. The aim is to ensure a more joined up approach to regulation and the handling of complaints for the benefit of tenants, and improved exchange information powers.

The regulator and the Ombudsman are required to publish and review a memorandum of understanding outlining how they will cooperate together and how they will communicate and share information with one another.[4] The Secretary of State must consult the housing Ombudsman when setting standards and giving directions to the social housing regulator.

The housing Ombudsman can issue a code of practice on complaint handling about the procedures members of the scheme should have in place for considering complaints against them. It must consult with the social housing regulator when making amendments to its scheme.[5]

For more information about their respective roles and powers see the Regulator of Social Housing and Housing Ombudsman Service: factsheet on GOV.UK

Last updated: 21 September 2023


  • [1]

    The Localism Act 2011 (Commencement No. 2 and Transitional Provisions) Order 2013 SI 2013/722 (C. 33).

  • [2]

    Sch. 2, Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.180 Localism Act 2011.

  • [3]

    s.181 Localism Act 2011.

  • [4]

    s.5 Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023; reg.2 Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 (Commencement No.1 and Saving Provision) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023/1001).

  • [5]

    ss.40-41 Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023.