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‘Single and accountable’ housing ombudsman considered by government

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Written by: Owain Thomas
19/02/2018
The government is considering whether home builders and all private landlords should be required to join respective ombudsman and redress schemes in a bid to protect tenants and homeowners.

Its questions come as part of a consultation into creating a single housing ombudsman to tackle complaints and redress issues within the property sector.

Unlike other areas, such as financial services which has a single ombudsman, housing has more than four different complaints bodies.

This means consumers may be “left without answers”, while others have to manoeuvre between different services just to work out where to register a complaint, such as a broken boiler or cracks in the walls, it said.

Proposals also include naming and shaming poor practice to help tackle the worst abuses.

House builder complaints

The government appears to have concerns about how home builders are handling complaints.

It highlighted that too often it received letters from consumers detailing protracted disputes over snagging issues and cases where the home buyer didn’t feel they had been treated fairly during the purchase process.

It said that house builders are responsible for fixing incomplete work in new build homes but added: “It’s not always clear to home buyers who they should complain to and who is responsible for putting things right.”

“The redress system is fragmented and we are concerned there are gaps in protection. For example, there needs to be more robust protection for homebuyers in the first two years after purchase.”

Private landlord redress scheme

In the private rented sector, there is currently no obligation for landlords to register with a complaints system and this can often leave thousands who don’t use a property agent without any option for redress.

The government said it had committed to changing the law to require all landlords to join a redress scheme making sure that every tenant has access to effective dispute resolution.

However, it wanted feedback on how this should be funded – including the possibility of a flat fee dependent on the size of the landlord’s portfolio, or the number of complaints received.

Housing secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “For too long, tenants and homeowners have navigated multiple complaints procedures to resolve disputes about everyday household repairs and maintenance.

“Fixing this housing crisis is about more than just building homes, it’s ensuring people have the answers available when something goes wrong.”

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