This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.
In January 2019 the Government announced plans to strengthen consumer redress in the housing market, including the creation of a new Housing Complaints Resolution Service as a single point of access to redress services across all tenures. A timetable for introduction hasn’t been announced.
General advice on lodging a complaint
- In the first instance the complaint should be raised directly with the organisation involved using their internal complaints procedure (if one exists).
- If the issue is unresolved, the next step could be independent redress, eg via an Ombudsman where one exists.
- Some businesses may belong to a professional association (for example, the Federation of Master Builders) which may provide an Alternative Dispute Resolution service.
- As a last resort, homeowners may resort to legal action to resolve disputes. Constituents considering this route should seek professional legal advice. The Advicenow website has information on legal aid and assistance. There is also a Commons Library briefing: Legal help: where to go and how to pay.
Complaints about the home buying and selling process
Estate agents must belong to a government-approved redress scheme: The Property Ombudsman or The Property Redress Scheme. These schemes provide for independent resolution of disputes. See the Commons Library briefing : Who regulates estate agents?
Conveyancers and solicitors
The Legal Ombudsman can investigate complaints against a legal service provider. Solicitors in England and Wales are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Complaints about solicitors can be made to the SRA.
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 impose a general prohibition on traders in all sectors from engaging in unfair commercial practices with consumers. From October 2014 consumers gained new rights of redress if subject to a misleading action or aggressive selling by a trader. These rights are enforced by Local Authority Trading Standards Services. The Commons Library briefing: Consumer protection: Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 provides further information.
Complaints about the standard of new-build properties
May be signed up to the Consumer Code for New Homes or the Consumer Code for Home Builders which provide a free, independent dispute resolution scheme. A defect liability period of two years post-completion usually operates during which developers are responsible for rectifying defects.
New home warranty providers
Most new-build properties are sold with a warranty lasting for around ten years. If a homeowner is unable to resolve a complaint with a warranty provider they may be able to seek redress from the Financial Ombudsman Service.
The Building Safety Act 2022 includes provisions to establish a New Homes Ombudsman scheme. These provisions are not yet in force. In the meantime, the construction industry has set up a New Homes Quality Board (NHQB). The Board launched a New Homes Quality Code and an independent New Homes Ombudsman Service on 2 October 2022. The Government may seek to put these on a statutory footing or elect to make other arrangements under the 2022 Act.
The Commons library briefing paper: New-build housing: construction defects – issues and solutions (England) provides further information.
Long leaseholders’ complaints (including shared owners)
Common leaseholder complaints include matters such as the level of service charges and the standard of services provided.
Property managing agents must belong to a government-approved redress scheme: The Property Ombudsman or The Property Redress Scheme. These schemes provide for independent resolution of disputes. There is government guidance on the schemes.
Certain leasehold disputes can be adjudicated by the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), including disputes over service charges, lease variations and the cost of freehold purchase and lease extensions.
Leaseholders with a social landlord can use the landlord’s internal complaints procedure. If the matter is unresolved, they may seek redress from the Housing Ombudsman Service. Not all complaints are covered by the Ombudsman Scheme (PDF), (eg it doesn’t cover disputes over the level of service charge or service charge increases).
The Association of Retirement Housing Managers (ARHM) has a Code of Practice to which agents operating in the leasehold retirement sector are expected to adhere: ARHM revised Code of Practice for England (2016). The Code requires managers to have a complaints handling procedure and to belong to a government-approved redress scheme.
Freeholders of houses on residential estates
Freeholders of houses on private and mixed-tenure estates who must contribute to the maintenance of the estate’s communal areas and facilities, do not have equivalent statutory rights to leaseholders to challenge the level of estate charges.
Where an estate charge is collected by a property agent a freeholder may be able to raise a complaint through the relevant redress scheme (see above).
The Government has committed to give freeholders equivalent rights to challenge the reasonableness of estate charges, as well as a right to apply to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) to appoint a new manager for the provision of services covered by estate charges. The Commons Library constituency casework page on Freeholders’ estate and service charges provides further information.
The best way to deal with these complaints depends on the specific behaviour/issue concerned and the tenure of the alleged perpetrator. There are two Library briefings with relevant information:
- Anti-social neighbours living in private housing (England)
- Anti-social behaviour in social housing (England)
Park home residents
Residents who live year-round on mobile home parks currently have no access to a redress scheme. The Government intends to legislate to require all residential park home site operators to be members of a redress scheme, but there’s no timetable. For further information see The Government’s response to the consultation on strengthening consumers redress in the housing market, January 2019.
Park home residents have a written agreement with their site owner which sets out the parties’ contractual obligations. The First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) can adjudicate on most disputes about park homes. Tribunal decisions are binding and can include a financial award for compensation. The county court deals with applications to terminate an agreement with a park home resident.
Disputes over the site licence or harassment arising on the park can be referred to the local authority. Unresolved complaints may be taken to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
The Commons Library briefing: Mobile (park) homes provides an overview of the rights of park homes residents.
- The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) has factsheets and FAQs on leasehold issues and gives free advice by telephone or email.
- LEASE provides an independent advice service for park home residents and site owners.
- National Trading Standards: Guidance for consumers seeking redress for leasehold matters.
- Citizens Advice consumer helpline.
- HomeOwners Alliance.
The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.