The New Housing Ombudsman | How it will work
The Housing Ombudsman Service, which currently handles complaints from social housing tenants, will also take on the role of resolving disputes between private landlords and tenants, according to government minister Jacob Young.
Confirmed in parliament, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said that this is their preferred option for landlords’ redress when the Renters (Reform) Bill comes into force.
Under the new law, landlords will have to join the service and pay a fee, and tenants will be able to complain to the PRS Ombudsman for free if they are not satisfied with how their landlord dealt with their issue.
However, this will only apply to tenants who rent directly from their landlord. Tenants who rent through an agent will still use the existing redress schemes that the agent is a member of, such as the Property Redress Scheme (PRS) or The Property Ombudsman (TPO). According to Propertymark, this accounts for nearly half of all private rented homes.
The DLUHC said: “We want our Ombudsman Service to work alongside the other housing redress schemes. This will make sure that all tenants, whether they rent from a social or private landlord, have access to high-quality and consistent redress if they have a valid complaint about their home.”
The Housing Ombudsman Service, which now deals with complaints from four million social housing tenants in the UK, will soon take on a much bigger role. Jacob Young has confirmed that it will also handle disputes between private landlords and tenants, which will add 4.6 million more potential ‘customers’ to its service when the new scheme starts.
However, this will not be an easy task. Its head, Richard Blakeway, recently told MPs two that his service will be very different from the existing redress schemes like TPO and the PRS, and will have more responsibilities.
He said he faced ‘operational challenges’ such as avoiding overlap with the work of courts, local authorities, Tribunals, and council licencing schemes, but also being more proactive in guiding private landlords to the ‘right behaviour’.
He also said his service should not and would not deal with minor issues such as leaky taps and broken windows, but rather the more complex problems to do with property maintenance and tenancy management.
Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme, disagrees with this view, saying Blakeway’s ombudsman will have to deal with the ‘small stuff’ too. He went on to say that “councils only deal with the most serious hazards and without the Decent Homes Standard being introduced at the same time, Blakeway’s ombudsman will have a very limited scope.”
It would seem that further clarity is required before the scope and workings of the Housing Ombudsman service are rolled-out.
This content was exclusively prepared in collaboration with The Lettings Hub by Cara Wilshire from award-winning Woodstock Legal Services.
Woodstock Legal Services are specialists in legal advice and solutions for the Private Rental Sector.
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