The Government is moving closer to introducing a single ombudsman to cover the whole of the housing market, following an announcement over the weekend that it is holding a consultation into the way in which property redress is handled.
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid revealed details yesterday of the eight-week consultation, which relates to the housing market in England.
Its aim is to “shape a similar and better complaints system” to allow disputes to be resolved more quickly and allow consumers access to compensation more easily.
Options considered in the consultation include:
- introducing a single housing ombudsman to cover the whole of the housing market, including the social housing market
- the question of whether homes builders should be required to join an ombudsman scheme
- naming and shaming poor practice to help tackle the worst abuses
Javid said: “For too long, tenants and home owners have navigated multiple complaints procedures to resolve disputes about everyday household repairs and maintenance.
“Fixing this housing crisis is about more than just building homes, it’s ensuring people have the answers available when something goes wrong.
“Today’s top-to-bottom review shows government is working hard to deliver a better and simpler system.”
The announcement comes less than two weeks after Ombudsman Services said it would quit the property sector, saying it no longer wanted to officiate arbitration services as “a broken solution to a broken market”.
It will begin a managed withdrawal from the schemes it runs for agents, surveyors and managing agents. It plans to exit altogether by August 6.
Even before the announcement from the RICS-backed redress scheme, a shake-up of the system and the creation of a single ombudsman was already on the cards.
Headed by chief ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith, Ombudsman Services says it would start work to develop a new model for redress in housing “to rebalance power in the sector” and that it would be putting its report around the creation of a single housing ombudsman to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) this spring.
Its withdrawal will leave just two organisations offering redress to the public who have complaints against sales and lettings agents.
The older is the Property Ombudsman and is the de facto organisation for almost all NAEA and ARLA members.
The other is the Property Redress Scheme, launched when the Government said it wanted more choice in the market when it made redress compulsory for letting agents.
MHCLG added: “Unlike other areas, such as financial services that have a single and accountable ombudsman, housing has over four different complaints bodies.
“In the private rented sector, there is currently no obligation for landlords to register with a complaints system and this can often leave thousands who do not use a property agent without any option for redress.”
Responding to the news, a spokesperson for the National House Building Council (NHBC) said: “NHBC welcomes the Government’s plans to consult on the introduction of a single housing ombudsman.
“While the details will need to be worked through, including the role of existing ombudsman schemes and other consumer protection services, NHBC believes that the introduction of an Ombudsman could be a positive development for both consumers and the new homes industry.”
The full consultation document can be viewed here.
Separately, the Government is considering making it law for landlords to carry out electrical installation checks every five years, as part of a range of new requirements and recommendations regarding electrical safety in the private rented sector.
The Government estimates that the checks would cost around £160.
The proposal comes as part of another eight-week consultation (from February 17) looking into electrical safety in the private rented sector.
The consultation will consider a series of recommendations made by the Private Rented Sector Electrical Safety Standards Working Group.
Another recommendation is that landlords should be “encouraged” to conduct visual checks of the safety of electrical installations at the change of each tenancy.
For the full consultation document, click here.