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Government urged to address ‘baffling’ housing complaints system

A single housing ombudsman is crucial to ensure that the current system for complaining about housing is no longer confusing, according to the Ombudsman Services.

The government is being urged to simplify the system of consumer complaints in housing and property to help eradicate the “baffling patchwork” of schemes involved.

Ombudsman Services, which is withdrawing from handling complaints in the housing and property sector next month, says the existing redress process is too complex, confusing, and ultimately failing consumers, owed in part to the fact that there are almost 40 services, charities, advice groups and trade bodies involved.

Matthew Vickers, chief ombudsman designate at Ombudsman Services, said: “Redress in the housing sector is far too complex, with overlaps and gaps that make it virtually impossible for consumers to get complaints resolved.

“Our research shows the vast and baffling patchwork of schemes that people are faced with when they have an unresolved complaint. The current system is fragmented, complicated and ineffective. Consumers deserve better.”

The Ombudsman Services supports the idea of introducing a single ombudsman for the housing sector, as initially proposed by a Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government consultation earlier this year.

Vickers added: “By following the model used in energy, where strong regulation is backed up by a single ombudsman and effective advocacy, redress in housing could be transformed for the better.

“Our research shows that the vast majority of the public support this approach.”

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment has recommended the creation of a New Homes Ombudsman and a single consumer portal, which would signpost consumers to multiple redress schemes.

But the Ombudsman Services argues that the creation of such a portal would fail as it would “add more layers of complexity to a system that is already failing consumers”, according to Vickers.

He added: “The government must take action to reduce confusion and detriment.”

Almost seven in 10 people find the current system for complaining about housing confusing, according to the results of a recent Ombudsman Services’ survey.

Government urged to address ‘baffling’ housing complaints system

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