Watchdog outlines approach after receiving new powers this month

The Housing Ombudsman now has stronger powers to force social landlords to evaluate policies and practices in a bid to prevent service failures being repeated.


Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman

The watchdog, which handles complaints from social housing tenants, has had its powers substantially expanded as a result of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act.

From this month the ombudsman can order councils and housing associations to evaluate particular policies and practices.

Previously it was limited to making recommendations, which landlords were not duty bound to adhere to.

The ombudsman says its new powers mean it can go beyond the scope of individual complaints to address wider issues.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “These changes will help us to extend fairness to residents who may be experience poor service without the landlord taking action on the root causes.

“This will also help landlords to learn from complaints and prompt changes in landlord behaviour. By extending the Ombudsman’s reach beyond individual complaints, more residents will benefit from the Ombudsman’s oversight and intervention, ultimately enhancing the quality of social housing.

“These powers give also us extra tools to act when we see repeated service failure.”

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The ombudsman made around 6,500 orders and recommendations to landlords in 2022/23.

The Social Housing (Regulation) Act, which became law in July, overhauls consumer regulation of social housing. In addition to bolstering the Ombudsman, it also  gives the Regulator of Social of Housing a suite of new powers, including the ability to routinely inspect social landlords.

The act was passed following public concern about conditions in social housing properties, exacerbated by the death of toddler Awaab Ishak in Rochdale due to exposure to black mould.