Housing generates a lot of questions for MPs and their constituency caseworkers. This paper provides a guide to some reliable sources of information (including other House of Commons Library briefings) for answering the most common constituents' housing questions.
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A significant proportion of the enquiries Members receive from constituents concern housing issues. Many of these are straightforward and can be answered using information readily available on the internet or in standard publications.
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.
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 is for councillors, tenant panels and MPs (“designated persons”) to play a more active role in resolving complaints at the local level. More information is provided in Housing complaints – the role of designated persons (6644).
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