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A significant proportion of the enquiries Members receive from constituents concern housing issues. Many are straightforward and can be answered using readily available information on the internet or in standard publications.

Housing Complaints

Local housing authorities and housing associations (registered providers of social housing) have internal complaints procedures. Details can be found on landlords’ websites. As a rule, these procedures should be exhausted before a complaint is taken to the Housing Ombudsman or the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. The latter deals with complaints about homelessness, housing allocations, Housing Benefit and home improvement services.

Although there is currently no overarching regulatory body for letting and managing agents or private landlords, some agents and individual landlords are members of professional bodies and are required to adhere to their codes of conduct/practice. Since 1 October 2014, letting and managing agents have been required to be a member of an approved redress scheme. Landlords and tenants can use these redress schemes to take a complaint against a letting/managing agent.

The Library’s constituency casework pages on How to complain about rented housing (England) and How can homeowners in England resolve housing complaints provide further information.

Handling housing complaints – role of an MP

The Localism Act 2011 provided for a new approach to dealing with complaints by social tenants against their landlords. These provisions came into force on 1 April 2013. The aim was for councillors, tenant panels and MPs (“designated persons”) to play a more active role in resolving complaints at the local level. This was referred to as a democratic filter. Referral of a complaint to a designated person was expected to take place only after a landlord’s complaints procedure had been exhausted. Alternatively, tenants must wait until eight weeks after the completion of the landlord’s complaints procedure before escalating the matter to the Housing Ombudsman directly. Background information is provided in Housing complaints – the role of designated persons.

The Building Safety Bill 2019-21 includes a provision to remove the democratic filter and referral of complaints by a designated person. Tenants of social landlords will be able to escalate complaints directly to the Housing Ombudsman, once the landlord’s complaints procedure has been exhausted. This is intended to speed up the complaints process for social tenants.

Taking legal action

Where a complaint does not resolve a problem, the constituent may need professional legal advice and assistance. The Advicenow website has information on seeking legal aid and assistance. There is also a Library paper: Legal help: where to go and how to pay.

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