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Which ombudsman for social housing complaints?

From April 2013 the Housing Ombudsman took over responsibility for all new complaints about social housing. This includes complaints about a local authority's (or Arms Length Management Organisation's) relationship as landlord to its tenants or leaseholders. The Housing Ombudsman continues to look at complaints about housing associations.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman considers complaints about local authorities’ wider housing activities, for example in discharging their statutory duties in homelessness. There are areas where there may appear to be some over-lap between the jurisdiction of the two Ombudsmen. We are both able to conduct joint investigations, and work under a Memorandum of Understanding.

The Housing Ombudsman can only consider complaints that have been referred by a ‘designated person’ (MP, councillor or recognised tenant panel), or by the tenant themselves if 8 weeks have passed from the completion of the landlords internal complaint process. This provision does not apply to complaints made to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. These complaints can still be referred directly.

The following guide sets out the complaint categories that should be referred to the different Ombudsman services.

Complaints referred to the Housing Ombudsman

Unless stated otherwise the Housing Ombudsman considers complaints about housing associations and local housing authorities.

Main issue Things the Housing Ombudsman investigates
Leasehold services
  • Shared ownership and sales processes for leasehold properties owned by housing associations
  • Shared ownership stair-casing for properties owned by housing associations
  • Full ownership and sales processes for leasehold properties owned by housing associations
  • Right to buy and right to acquire for tenants of housing associations
  • Repair responsibilities under the lease
  • Mortgage rescue schemes
  • Leasehold services provided by the landlord
Moving to a property
  • Transfer applications that are outside Housing Act 1996 Part 6
  • Type of tenancy offered
  • Mutual exchange
  • Decision to renew a fixed tenancy
  • Decants (including those that are dealt with via (the local housing authority's) allocation policy)
  • Mobility Schemes
Rent and service charges
  • Rent or service charges
Occupancy rights
  • Terms and conditions of occupancy rights
  • Succession
  • Assignment
  • Ending a tenancy (eg notice periods)
  • Abandonment of property
  • Possession proceedings
Property condition – repairs and improvements
  • Condition of the property when first let (eg void works)
  • Responsive repairs
  • Planned maintenance or cyclical works
  • Improvement works carried out by landlord or tenant
  • Rechargeable repairs
  • Disabled adaptations
Tenant behaviour
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Noise nuisance
  • Harassment
Estate management
  • Cleaning or repairs of communal areas
  • Boundary issues
  • Grounds maintenance
  • Parking linked to occupancy agreement
  • Parking
  • Use of communal areas
Complaint handling
  • The landlord’s handling of a complaint in their complaint process, including delays
  • Home loss or disturbance payments
  • Improvements carried out by the tenant
  • Payment for damage to property or tenants' belongings
  • Discretionary payments

Complaints referred to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

Unless stated otherwise the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman considers complaints about local authorities.

Main issue Things the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigates
Housing allocations under Housing Act 1996 Part 6
  • Applications for re-housing that meet the reasonable preference criteria (dealt with by the local housing authority or any other body acting on its behalf, which could include a housing association). Includes complaints about:
    • Assessment of such applications, the award of points, banding or a decision that the application does not qualify for reasonable preference
    • Operation of choice based lettings schemes and about the suitability of accommodation offered under those schemes.

See fact sheets on Housing transfers and Housing applications

Homelessness under Housing Act 1996 Part 7
  • Applications for assistance under the homelessness legislation (dealt with by the local housing authority or any other body acting on its behalf, which could include a housing association). Includes complaints about:
    • Homelessness advice and homelessness prevention activities
    • How applications are dealt with and decisions about eligibility for and allocation of interim and temporary accommodation
    • the condition or suitability of temporary accommodation.

See fact sheet on Homelessness applications

General housing advice
Housing benefit
Housing improvement grants
  • Applications for mandatory and discretionary housing improvement grants. Includes complaints about:
    • Provision of advice, processing of applications, preparation of schedules of work, payment of grant and other decisions on grant eligibility and entitlement
    • Actions of social services occupational therapy services with regard to assessment and eligibility for disabled facilities grant
Antisocial behaviour
Noise nuisance
  • Reports of statutory noise and other nuisance to environmental health services
  • Actions/decisions made by Environmental Health Services
Sale or disposal of land on housing estates
  • Applications or requests to buy parcels of land owned by local authorities
  • Sales processes for properties owned by local authorities
  • Right to buy and right to acquire for tenants of local authorities
  • Requests from local authority tenants or leaseholders to purchase extensions such as hall/loft/basement space
Planning and building control at properties owned by a social landlord
Adult social care