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New ‘Complaint Handling Code’ From the Housing Ombudsman Service

Posted on 18th March 2024 in Affordable Housing

Posted by

Michael Taylor

Partner & Solicitor
New ‘Complaint Handling Code’ From the Housing Ombudsman Service

Complaint handling in the social housing sector has been the focus of significant attention in recent years, particularly in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire and the tragic death of Awaab Ishak.

This increased focus led to the first complaint handling code that was published by the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) in July 2020. The initial code required Landlords to complete a self-assessment of their compliance with the code and publish the results. It also saw the introduction of the Complaint Handling Failure Orders (CHFOs). 

Since their introduction in January 2021, the HOS has issued some 349 CHFOs. As the sector faces closer scrutiny, we have seen year on year increases in both the numbers of CHFOs issued and with the number of Landlords failing to comply with the orders. In 2021, 78 CHFOs were issued and there were 11 cases of non-compliance. In 2022, 137 were issued, with 32 cases of non-compliance. To the end of September 2023, 134 orders were issued with 44 cases of non-compliance.     

The code was further updated in 2022, and following consultation in 2023, next month will see the arrival of the latest version. This is the first code to become statutory, it takes effect from 1 April 2024, and will mean that landlords will be obliged by law to follow its requirements.

The Complaint Handling Code, as outlined by the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS), aims to establish best practices in managing complaints. Its primary objectives are to enhance services for residents and foster a constructive complaints culture within the social housing sector.

In the Code’s foreword, the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) emphasises that landlords should actively embrace complaints by enhancing transparency, accessibility, and complaint handling governance. This approach underscores the importance of residents in service delivery, with effective complaint handling at its core.

What the new Code means for Registered Providers

Registered Providers (RPs) will already be familiar with the earlier versions of the code, and much of the new Code remains unchanged. For example, there remains the same universal definition of complaint and the same 2 stage process. The HOS has produced a useful comparison between the 2022 and 2024 versions, which can be accessed here.

The full version of the new Code is available on the HOS website.

The Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) is currently hosting several Statutory Code webinars customised for various landlords based on their type and size. These webinars can be scheduled or accessed through the HOS learning hub. As the new Code approaches, Registered Providers (RPs) should carefully assess their existing complaints policies to ensure full alignment with the updated requirements.

Significantly noteworthy is the Housing Ombudsman Service’s (HOS) role in monitoring compliance with the Complaint Handling Code. This entails ensuring that landlords adhere to the following requirements:

·      Scrutinising and Challenging Compliance: Landlords must thoroughly assess their compliance with the Code, evaluate complaints handling performance, and learn from past complaints. The outcomes of this scrutiny should be publicly disclosed on their website.

·      Policy Adherence: Landlords are expected to align their policies with the Code. Any deviations from the Code must be explained and deemed reasonable.

·      Practical Compliance: Landlords should apply the Code’s principles in practice.


Landlords are required to annually submit their self-assessment to the Ombudsman, with their Tenant Satisfaction Measures (TSMs) returns. The deadline for landlords with over 1,000 homes is 30th June 2024. For those with fewer than 1,000 homes, the submission deadline is either 12 weeks after their financial year-end or upon the publication of TSMs on their website. Additionally, landlords must publish the self-assessment on their websites, ensuring easy access for residents.

How can Tozers help

Tozers are dedicated to assisting Registered Providers and Local Authorities. With more than 35 years of experience, our Affordable Housing team is well equipped to assist and advise you

Contact us on the button below to speak with one of our experienced social housing solicitors. 

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