Richard Blakeway says that despite progress, ‘there is still more work to do’

The majority of social landlords have changed their approach to noise complaints since the Ombudsman published a report on the issue 18 months ago.

Richard Blakeway Photo (1)

Source: Housing Ombudsman

The Housing Ombudsman, Richard Blakeway, has said “there is still more work to do” on noise complaints but that it is positive landlords are engaging with HOS reports. 

The Housing Ombudsman’s follow-up report revealed that following the release of its noise complaints report in October 2022, 60% of landlords have carried out self-evaluations and developed an action plan based on the recommendations.

For this follow-up report, the Ombudsman collected data from 55 landlords who responded to a call for evidence, including a mix of housing associations and local authorities.

The initial ‘Time to be heard’ report suggested that void standards should be updated to ensure that properties are sufficiently insulated against noise.

Landlords mentioned void improvements such as installing soft door-closure mechanisms, door pads, anti-vibration washing machine mats, reviewing previous reports of noise and conducting noise insulation checks.

Another recommendation was that landlords should have a good neighbourhood policy, distinct from their antisocial behaviour (ASB) policy.

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‘Time to be heard’ found that 76% of landlords were dealing with noise complaints under their ASB policy, which was leading to poor responses according to the Ombudsman.

According to the evaluation, 45% of landlords now have or are developing a neighbourhood management policy.

Additionally, 22% of landlords have or are planning to create a separate policy to deal with noise-related issues.

Other improvements made following the initial noise complaints report include landlords introducing timescales for responding to noise complaints and changing the mediation approach to ‘conversation, not confrontation’.

A further change made by social housing providers is triaging noise complaints to determine whether they fall under household noise or ASB.

Richard Blakeway, the Housing Ombudsman, said: “It is positive to see that when landlords engage with the recommendations from our Spotlight reports, effective policy and practice can come from it. This will undoubtedly benefit residents and extend fairness, enabling landlords to deliver more responsive services and potentially prevent complaints arising”.

Blakeway added that the Ombudsman wants to improve landlords’ local complaint handling so that fewer cases require the watchdog’s intervention. He said that engaging with reports like this one are “an important way of doing that” and that some landlords have even used the self-assessments from Spotlight reports as evidence of their progress and learning when providing evidence to the Regulator of Social Housing.

However, he said that “it is important to note that this is just a snapshot of landlords and there is still more work to do. Noise can be a huge issue for the residents that experience it and can cause severe mental health issues, impacting their whole lives. Landlords should be empathetic of this when cases come into them.”

Minister for Social Housing, Baroness Scott said: “Everyone should be able to live without their lives being blighted by noise and [the] findings show positive steps being taken by social landlords to improve residents’ quality of life in response to the Housing Ombudsman’s recommendations.”

Scott added: “Our landmark Social Housing Regulation Act is building on the Housing Ombudsman’s important work to make sure social landlords continue to improve the way they handle complaints. This includes a new competence and conduct standard that will arm social housing staff with the skills, experience and knowledge to deliver the excellent service that tenants want and need.”