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?

It depends on whether your application is dealt with under your landlord’s own internal arrangements or under the allocation scheme run by the local authority. Complaints which are dealt with under the local authority’s allocations scheme include:

  • where 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)
  • if you live in overcrowded or unsanitary housing or other unsatisfactory housing conditions, or
  • if you need to move on medical or welfare grounds or because of a disability.

Even if your landlord is a housing association, it may be 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.

You should normally make your complaint to us within 12 months of realising that the council has done something wrong.

For more information on how to complain, visit our contact page or complete an online complaint form.

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
  • sends a written apology, and/or
  • review its policies to bring them into line with legislation or other government guidance.

Examples of some complaints we have considered

Mr M applied for a transfer to a larger property so his home would not be overcrowded when his two children came to live with him. The council told him it would not validate his application until he obtained a residency order. The council was wrong to do this, as the purpose of a residency order is to resolve disputes between parents and not to support an application for housing. Mr M was unable to secure a move until he obtained a residency order from the court. We asked the council to refund the cost of obtaining the residency order and provide a financial remedy for the delay in providing suitable accommodation.
Ms O asked her council for a transfer to a property that would meet her medical needs. She complained that the council had failed to offer her a transfer within a reasonable period. We found that Ms O had been unable to move to more appropriate accommodation because suitable properties that had become available had been let to applicants who had more priority under the council’s allocation system than Ms O. We could not therefore conclude that the council’s failure to rehouse Ms O was due to maladministration.

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.

May 2017