Ombudsman Services (OS) has announced the launch of Building Balance, a dialogue being run to look at how consumers can be better protected by improving how complaints are handled in the housing sector.
The way complaints are handled in housing is in desperate need of an overhaul, with many finding the existing patchwork of alternative dispute resolution and ombudsman schemes confusing. Currently one in three (33%) people* say they have no idea where to go if they have a complaint, and a further 43 per cent agree that consumer protection isn’t good enough in the sector, leaving many unsure about how to make their complaints heard.
Building Balance is inviting all renters, tenants, homeowners and those working in the sector to come forward and have their say about the issues that affect them: the problems they’ve faced, their experiences of complaining and how they would recommend changing the complaints system, by going to www.buildingbalance.co.uk and filling in a simple questionnaire. The dialogue is open to responses from Friday 9th March until Thursday 5th April 2018.
The launch of the new portal follows OS’ announcement of its decision to withdraw from the property sector from August 2018, saying it would no longer offer a broken solution to a broken market. Not only are many consumers facing issues, they’re also being left in the dark about who they can turn to, and OS will use this initiative to understand key ‘pain points’ for tenants and home buyers and consult with them about the shape of a new service.
The findings will be presented to the government as a White Paper, ensuring that public views are represented in the Ministry Of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s own consultation on consumer redress in the housing sector. The government is considering a new system that would echo the current model used in the Finance and Energy sectors; an effective regulator supported by a single ombudsman and a strong advice and advocacy service for consumers. Two thirds of people (63%) agree that it would be sensible to have one place to go when making a complaint about housing.
Alongside consulting the public, the not-for-profit organisation, which is the largest multi-sector ombudsman in the UK, will work with charities, consumer groups and property professionals on the best way to make complaining in the sector work better for everyone involved.
Commenting on the announcement, Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said:
“During our ten years helping consumers with complaints in the housing sector, we have seen first-hand the impact that the confusing and complicated system has had on them.
“Housing is one of the biggest issues we face as a nation, but the current system for resolving complaints is broken. It’s difficult to know where to go to complain, the current system is ineffective, and doesn’t provide the service that consumers need.
“We believe a fair, balanced, system that has the legal powers to put things right is required, one that will serve the whole of society and gives people a voice when it comes to their homes. So we are working to develop a model that works for everyone.
“We know a new solution is needed, but we don’t have all the answers. We need your views; your experiences in dealing with housing issues, your thoughts on what an ombudsman for housing should look like. Whether you’re a renter, tenant, homeowner or work in the property sector, we want to hear from you. Please visit www.buildingbalance.co.uk today and tell us what you think.”