We have recently undertaken a self-assessment against a new Housing Ombudsman Code for dealing with complaints. This page gives details of the new code, our assessment against it and what it should mean in how we respond to complaints.
The new Code was published in July 2020, setting out a good practice guide to assist and allow landlords to respond to complaints effectively and fairly and be more accountable to residents, the Ombudsman and the Regulator.
The Self-Assessment covers six areas:
- Definition of a complaint
- Complaint Team and Process
- Cooperation with Housing Ombudsman Service
- Fairness in complaint handling
Not all the areas of the assessment were relevant, as the Association does not have a Complaints Officer. Complaints are handled by all staff. Where sections are ‘not applicable’ ‘N/A’ was the response in the self assessment .
Here is the full Self-Assessment Complaint Handling Code Self Assessment
As a result of this review we have reviewed and updated our Complaints Policy and Process.
Utilising the codes best practice should assist the Association to improve handling of complaints including ensuring that complaints are simple and straightforward to make, are always treated seriously, are dealt with quickly and effectively and that learning is taken from complaints to improve the services that we provide.
If you have any feedback about this Self- Assessment, any more general comments about how we deal with complaints, require any further information or would like to get involved in reviewing our complaints process please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are committed to providing a good quality service to all tenants and customers. In order to understand whether we are achieving this aim it is important that we understand customers views including those received via complaints. From time to time things will go wrong and where this is the case we are committed to putting things right in a timely and fair way, acknowledging any mistake or failure on our part and taking any wider learning to improve our services/provision.
We have a Complaints Policy and Process which aims to make reporting a complaint easy, ensure we are responsive to complaints and that matters are resolved and good outcomes achieved.
The complaints process works as follows (full details of the process are given in the Complaints Policy and Procedure, available on request):
Who can use the Complaints Procedure?
The procedure is available to all users of the Associations services and those affected by these services.
What is covered by the Complaints Procedure?
The complaints process relates to issues with the services provided by us and a failure to provide the specified/required level of service. Many services include a right of appeal against decisions made e.g. lettings and a decision to refuse an application, and these rights of appeal should be used in the first instance. The complaints process will not be used where court action is being taken, for example as a consequence of rent arrears or other breaches of the tenancy agreement.
If you want to report Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) this is dealt with under a separate process. Please see the Anti-Social Behaviour Policy. Further details are also given on this website.
How can I complain?
You can complain to us in whichever way is easiest for you; electronically by filling out our complaints form, by email, by telephone, in person or in writing, including by text.
A complaint can be made by an advocate on your behalf providing the person/organisation has your permission to do so and we have evidence of this permission. Groups of customers may make a complaint collectively but this should be through a single named representative. Designated persons (see below) may also make a complaint on behalf of customers.
Outline of the Complaints Process
Some issues may be able to be fixed/resolved very quickly and without the need to use the Complaints process. In these instance’s we will agree this with you. If after our action you are not satisfied then you may still use the Complaints process. Any negative feedback that does not require a response will be considered outside of the Complaints process.
A complaint must be made within 3 months of an issue occurring and must relate to a service delivered by us
The Complaints Procedure has two stages. Our aim will always be to resolve any matter as quickly as possible and therefore to resolve an issue at stage1.
If you are not satisfied with a response at stage 1 then the complaint can be escalated to stage 2. Any escalation must be notified within 28 days of a stage 1 decision being communicated to you.
If you are not satisfied with the response at stage 2 then you have the option to refer to a designated person. A designated person can be a local councillor, an MP or a Tenant Panel.
If after the involvement of a designated person you remain dissatisfied with the outcome, the matter can be referred to the Housing Ombudsman Service. You do not need to involve a designated person before referral to the Housing Ombudsman Service, but in this instance the referral to the Ombudsman must be made at least 8 weeks after a final response from us.
Stage 1: Formal Complaint to a Senior Officer
A first complaint should be made to a senior officer of the Association (Housing Services Officer or Property Services Officer). You should explain your problem/why you disagree with a decision made by the Association, and what you want us to do to put it right.
Your complaint should be acknowledged within 3 working days. The matter will be investigated and a full response given within 20 working days. Occasionally it may be necessary to extend this timescale. If this is the case the reasons for this will be explained and a revised timescale given.
If you are not satisfied with the response you can escalate the complaint to the next stage. This escalation has to be done within 28 days of the decision of the stage 1 complaint being communicated to you.
Stage 2: Formal Complaint to the Operations Manager
You can report a stage 2 complaint in the same way as stage 1. The complaint should be made to the Operations Manager. The Manager will acknowledge the complaint within 3 working days and you should expect a full response within 20 working days. As per stage 1 this period may be extended. The reasons for any extension and arevised timescale will be give.
What if I am still not satisfied?
After a decision at stage 2 you have the right to refer the matter to a ‘Designated Person’, including a local councillor, an MP or a Tenant Panel. The Designated Person will consider the complaint with a view to resolving at a local level in discussion with both parties. They may decide to refer the matter directly to the Housing Ombudsman Service.
Housing Ombudsman Service
If you have exhausted the Associations complaints process and are not satisfied with the outcome you can refer the matter to the Housing Ombudsman Service. Further details of this service can be provided by us and are also available online. Contact details for the service are:
Housing Ombudsman Service
Tel: 0300 111 3000
Fax: 020 7831 1942
The Ombudsman will wish to be sure that you have gone through the complete Complaints Procedure of the Association before taking up your complaint.
Who else can help?
Citizens Advice Bureau
Your local CAB can help you. You can also get free advice from a Law Centre,a Housing Aid Centre and organisation’s such as Shelter. If you wish to engage a solicitor, you will normally have to pay for their services. We will provide details of local organisation’s who can advise and assist you.
Tenant Board Members
Details of such members can be obtained from Westfield.
You have a right to lodge complaints of discrimination against the Association in the County Court on the grounds of race or gender and your rights under the Protection from Harassment Act. There is a six-month time limit from the date of the event giving rise to the complaint and the date the complaint is registered.
A link to our full Complaints Policy is provided on our policy page. Hard copies of the policy are available on request.