Response: Strengthening consumer redress in the housing market

By: Rhea Newman
Published: May 2018

Response: Strengthening consumer redress in the housing market

Shelter welcomes the opportunity to respond to this consultation on strengthening consumer redress in the housing market. Everyone should have a home that is warm, safe and secure but all too often this is not the case and every year, Shelter advises millions of people on issues related to their housing, including problems with repairs and poor housing conditions as well as issues with their landlord or letting agent.In all consumer markets, it is important to have access to simple and efficient ways to resolve issues. However, access to redress is particularly important when it relates to somebody’s home. Redress is a key part of enabling people to enforce their rights and ensuring people are able to live in safe and decent conditions.

The complaint mechanisms in housing are currently not fit for purpose. Too often people are left without access to meaningful and timely redress for their housing issues and often fear the consequences of making a complaint. This is particularly an issue for those in the private rented sector (PRS), but as tragically highlighted by the fire at Grenfell Tower, people in social housing can also all too easily have their concerns ignored. Therefore, Shelter supports the Government’s intention to improve consumer redress and particularly consideration of how to streamline and standardise redress mechanisms.

Overall, Shelter makes the following recommendations for strengthening consumer redress:

  1. The Government should establish one portal for housing-related complaints so there is a single place for people to complain about any housing issue, regardless of housing tenure or the nature of the issue.

  2. The Government should streamline and standardise redress schemes by creating one ombudsman for each sector of the housing market and ensuring all ombudsman schemes operate to consistent service standards.

  3. All private landlords should be required to join a redress scheme, regardless of whether they employ a managing agent.

  4. The Government should ensure tenants who complain to an ombudsman are protected from retaliatory eviction.