Housing transfers

This fact sheet is aimed at tenants who are having problems with their application for a housing transfer and may be considering making a complaint to us.

I have a problem with my application for a housing transfer within my council area. Can I complain to the Ombudsman?

Yes if:

  • you need to move because it is no longer reasonable for you to continue to live at the property (and so you are potentially homeless)
  • you live in overcrowded or unsanitary housing or other unsatisfactory housing conditions, or
  • you need to move on medical or welfare grounds or because of a disability.

Local authorities must give reasonable preference to certain groups of applicants including people who need to move for the reasons shown above. You can complain to the Ombudsman if a housing association is acting on behalf of the local housing authority.

Complaints about applications for transfers for other reasons, such as decants and mutual exchanges, are not about the local authority allocations scheme. They should be made to the Housing Ombudsman Service.

How do I complain?

You should normally complain to the council first. Councils often have more than one stage in their complaints procedure and you will usually have to complete all stages before we will look at your complaint.

Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or the council is taking too long to look into the matter - we think 12 weeks is reasonable - you can complain to us.

Usually, you should complain to us within 12 months of when you first knew about the problem. If you leave it any later, we may not be able to help.

For more information on how to complain, please read our step by step process

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?

We consider whether the council has done something wrong in the way it dealt with your application for a transfer which has caused you problems. Some of the issues we can look at are:

  • delay in processing your application
  • losing your application or other documents
  • turning down or suspending your application for no good reason
  • not assessing your application in line with the council’s allocations policy
  • making a mistake, such as getting your application date wrong, not giving you the points you should have, or putting you in the wrong band
  • failing to take special factors into account, such as overcrowding or medical problems
  • losing a bid made through a choice-based lettings scheme, or
  • unreasonable delay in responding to correspondence.

What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault?

The Ombudsman cannot usually overturn a council's decision on the priority it has given to your application. But, if we find something has gone wrong in the way the council dealt with your application, we may ask the council to:

  • takes action to put the matter right, such as to reassess your application or make an offer of suitable accommodation
  • improve procedures so that the same problems you experienced do not happen to others
  • make a payment to you. Whether we do this and the amount we suggest will depend on how you have been affected by what has gone wrong, for example, whether you have lived in unsatisfactory housing for longer than you should have done
  • apologise, and/or
  • review its policies to bring them into line with legislation or other government guidance
  • arrange staff training

Examples of complaints we have considered

Ms B complained the council failed to give her appropriate information about the housing transfer list and that as a result she has been disadvantaged. She also complained the council gave her incorrect information about her application banding and, when it responded to her complaint, it did not take account of relevant factors. We found fault by the council because its responses to Ms B’s enquiries and complaints did not properly address the issues, were not evidence-based, and were delayed. The council’s record keeping was poor. The council agreed to backdate Ms B’s transfer application, to re-assess it and to make a payment to her within the time period we recommended. 
Mrs B complained the council failed to properly consider the medical evidence she provided in support of her request to move to a larger property. We found that the council had properly considered all the medical evidence and other information Mrs B provided in support of her request for a move. The council had reviewed its original decision and explained to Mrs B its reasons for deciding to uphold it. We did not identify any fault in the council’s decision-making process so we did not pursue the complaint further.

Other sources of information

You can contact the Housing Ombudsman Service at www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk by telephone on 0300 111 3000, or by email at info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk

Citizens Advice at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing

Shelter at england.shelter.org.uk

Shelter runs a helpline on 0808 800 4444

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.

We provide a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result we aim to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

March 2023

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