The official Housing Ombudsman Service is to investigate Lambeth council over its failure to respond properly to a complaint from a tenant.
In a report published yesterday (11 May) the service said that following numerous unsuccessful requests for Lambeth council to respond to the complaint an order was issued.
“This was not complied with and we decided the case had exhausted the landlord’s internal complaints procedure,” the service said.
“The case is now in our formal remit awaiting investigation.”
The report is the first to explain new powers the service has to issue “complaint handling failure orders”.
It issued 10 of these orders between January and March this year, mostly due to unreasonable delays by landlords in accepting or progressing residents’ complaints.
Eight of the 10 orders were complied with, but in two cases the landlords did not comply.
The two are both London local authorities, Lambeth, and Enfield council in North London.
Ombudsman service complaint handling failure orders are designed to ensure that a landlord’s complaint handling process is “accessible, consistent and enables the timely progression of complaints for residents”.
The orders are part of new powers for the ombudsman that came into force last year. They set out clear expectations about how landlords will handle housing complaints.
Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway said: “It is crucial residents are listened to when they make a complaint and that landlords’ procedures are focused on timely resolution, not putting residents off complaining or a series of stages in order to reach the Ombudsman.
“Our code sets clear expectations for efficient, effective and accessible complaint handling and we issue orders where landlords fail to meet them.
“These orders can now be made whilst the complaint is still within the landlord’s procedure.
“In most cases where we issued handling failure orders, the landlord responded well and sought to resolve the complaint, making clear the benefit of these orders to earlier resolution.
“However, it is disappointing that in two cases landlords did not comply, and we have taken these complaints into formal investigation.
“I hope this report will promote transparency, accountability and learning across the social housing sector.”