Ombudsman Services brands housing complaints system “baffling”

The Ombudsman Services has reiterated its request for the government to streamline the housing complaints system as it prepares to extract itself from dealing with the property sector next month, damning the current system as a “baffling patchwork”.

Mortgage Strategy reported in February this year that Ombudsman Service chief executive Lewis Shand Smith wanted to see, “a single ombudsman for housing,” as promoted by then-communities secretary Sajid Javid MP because, “only then will the housing sector be able to restore trust and ensure that consumers get a much better standard of service.”

This desire has not wavered. Today the ombudsman scheme points out that nearly 40 services, charities, advice groups, and trade bodies may be involved when somebody looks to claim redress, and, adding weight to its argument, writes that in a recent survey, seven out of 10 respondents said they found the process for making a housing complaint “confusing” and 55 per cent said that they didn’t know “where or how to complain”.

The service also released a suitably spaghetti-like diagram to hammer its point home:

Ombudsman Services chief designate ombudsman Matthew Vickers says: “By following the model used in energy, where strong regulation is backed up by a single ombudsman and effective advocacy, redress in housing could be transformed for the better.

“Our research shows that the vast majority of the public support this approach… the government must take action to reduce confusion and detriment.”

National Landlords Association chief executive Richard Lambert says: “The system currently in place is confusing and ineffective for all involved. It needs to be simplified and accessible for all in the housing sector.”

“The case for a single ombudsman is seductive, but it would have to be a massive, FCA-style operation. My concern is whether such a body would still be able to cope effectively with all the different perspectives of the housing sector,” he adds.

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