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Section 51 (Complaints against Social Landlords)

Summary

1. This section states that tenants of social landlords have the right to complain to a housing ombudsman scheme approved by the Government, and that all social landlords must be a part of such a scheme.

2. The term ‘tenants’ includes Leaseholder and Shared Owners.

What is a Social Landlord?

1. The legislation states a person or organisation is considered a social landlord if any of the following apply:

i. They are a landlord who is, or has been, a ‘registered’ social landlord. The Homes and Communities Agency, the current housing regulator (from 2012) maintains a list of landlords who provide low costs and affordable housing. Being registered as a social landlord means being on that list.

ii. They are a landlord who is in possession of ex-Council housing sold under Section 135 of the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993.

iii. They are a Landlord to whom property with secure tenants (mostly Council property) has been transferred to under Part IV of the Housing Act 1988.

iv. They are a Landlord who was at any time registered with the housing regulator and they still own property which was publicly funded.

2. Local authorities, housing associations and housing action trusts are all social landlords.

What is the Housing Ombudsman?

1. The housing ombudsman is a body set up by government and funded by subscriptions from social landlords who are required by law to be members.

2. From 2013 the housing ombudsman is called the Housing Ombudsman Service.

3. Contact details for the Housing Ombudsman Scheme:

Housing Ombudsman Service
81 Aldwych
London
WC2B 4HN

Telephone: 0300 111 3000 (lines are open Monday to Friday from 9:15 to 17:15)
Fax: 020 7831 1942
Email: info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk

What does this mean for Service Charge payers?

1. Service Charge payers can complain to the Housing Ombudsman Service but with certain restrictions. They must:

i. Have been through their landlord’s complaint procedure before a complaint will be accepted.

ii. Have either waited until 8 weeks after exhausting their landlord’s formal complaints procedure OR have their complaint forwarded by a ‘Designated Person’. A designated person is either an MP, a local Councillor, or a Tenant Panel.

iii. The issue in question cannot be the subject of ongoing, or past, legal proceedings.

iv. The complaint cannot be about the level of rent or service charge, or increase in the level of rent or service charge.

2. Point iv. above may appear to make the Housing Ombudsman Service appear irrelevant to Service Charge payers, but there are still things a Leaseholder can make complaints about. For example:

i. The Housing Ombudsman Service can investigate concerns Leaseholders may have about not being consulted on relevant housing management issues.

ii. The Housing Ombudsman Service can investigate concerns about access to information.

iii. The Housing Ombudsman Service can investigate concerns about people being discriminated against or treated unfairly.

iv. The Housing Ombudsman Service can also investigate concerns Leaseholders may have about Landlords not keeping to commitments they previously made.

3. These issues have an important be important in determining the amount of Service Charge paid, and leaseholders of social landlords would be wise to make full use of the Housing Ombudsman Service which has wide powers to penalise Landlords and order them to act.

4. For more information about the ‘jurisdiction’ (this means what they have the power to do) of the Housing Ombudsman Service please click on this link to the FAQ page on their website.

Click on the link to read more about The Housing Act 1996