The government is to introduce a single ombudsman to cover the whole of the property industry including for the first time both new homes and rented property, and has announced a consultation.
There are currently four different complaints bodies in housing and not all those operating within the industry must join them, a ‘gap’ that the government says it wants to close.
The private treaty and lettings sectors have three ombudsman – although one of the recently said it was withdrawing from the market – plus there’s an additional ombudsman for the social housing sector. But private landlords are not currently compelled by law to join a redress scheme or be accountable to an ombudsman.
The proposed initiative kicks off with an eight-week consultation which the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) says will help “shape a simpler and better complaints system” and that in future disputes will be “resolved faster” and homebuyers and tenants will be able to access compensation.
The MHCLG consultation will look at various aspects of the property market including whether or not a ‘whole industry’ ombudsman is really needed, but also look at whether builders should be included in the scheme; how to name and shame poor service and whether landlords should be forced to join a redress scheme.
The consultation, which will be open to all including tenants, landlords, home owners, and existing ombudsman schemes, will close on 18th April this year.
Housing ombudsman – industry reactions
“For too long, tenants and homeowners have navigated multiple complaints procedures to resolve disputes about everyday household repairs and maintenance,” says Housing Secretary Sajid Javid.
“Fixing this housing crisis is about more than just building homes, it’s ensuring people have the answers available when something goes wrong.”
The plans have so far gone down well within the industry and the NHBC has welcomed a single ombudsman approach, praising it as a “positive development for both consumers and the new homes industry”.
“NALS welcomes the speed with which the Government has brought forward this consultation,” says Isobel Thomson, CEO of NALS.
“The simplification of the complaints process for consumers is to be welcomed. It makes sense to have one point of contact to engage with to ensure complaints are dealt with effectively and efficiently.
“We want a private rented sector that is safer and fairer for all – tenants, landlords and letting agents, so we are pleased to see the consultation re-enforces Government’s commitment to ensure private landlords are covered by a redress scheme.”
Responses to the consultation should be emailed to: Housingredress@communities.gsi.gov.uk