The Housing Ombudsman received a significantly higher number of complaints and enquiries in the first quarter of this year compared to the same quarter in 2020, the service has revealed.
The Ombudsman received 6,010 enquiries and complaints between January and March 2021 compared to 3,482 in the same period of 2020 – an increase of 73%, according to the service’s latest Insight report.
In March alone this year, the service received 2,447 complaints and enquiries compared to 960 in March 2020. Meanwhile, the number of decisions the Ombudsman made on cases in its remit increased from 505 to 640 over the two quarters.
The Ombudsman says that demand for its service initially declined in March 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown coming into force. However, numbers since have gradually increased and then exceeded the previous year.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “Demand for our service is clearly increasing which we expect to continue this year. This reinforces the need for landlords to use the good practice set out in our Complaint Handling Code, so they can respond to complaints fairly and effectively.
“A number of cases highlighted in this report concern the challenging period during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I hope the case studies and the lessons identified in this report provide useful learning for the sector.”
The report is the latest in the Ombudsman’s quarterly Insight reports, which provide insight on the Ombudsman’s complaints data, a selection of case studies and key learning points. It is due to be the Ombudsman’s last report covering the year 2020-21.
The reports form part of the Ombudsman’s move to become a more open and transparent service and to share knowledge and learning from its casework.
In the period between January and March 2021, the three most frequent subjects of complaints the Ombudsman received were repairs (45%), tenant behaviour (13%) and complaint handling (11%).
The percentage of repairs complaints decreased slightly from 47% compared to the same period in 2020. Meanwhile, complaints in relation to tenant behaviour were slightly up compared to 11% the previous year, a trend observed by the Ombudsman in the previous two quarters.
The report is also the second to have a regional focus, this time covering cases from the East Midlands, West Midlands and East of England
A number of cases showed landlords responding to issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, with one landlord failing to keep a resident informed in relation to a repairs issue about damp and mould. This came after the landlord failed to make a detailed investigation into the issue, despite the issue recurring over several years.
In another case, a landlord ignored a resident’s request to review their complaint about issues following a gas safety check, saying it had already provided a detailed response.
Among other recommendations, the Ombudsman has reminded landlords to thoroughly investigate issues when they are raised, to keep residents regularly updated and informed about complaints, and to give review requests full consideration.
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