Posted by: Carl Brown07/09/2012
New governments notoriously like to blame the previous administrations when things go wrong – but this week it was the social housing regulator’s turn to blame its predecessor.
The Homes and Communities Agency has been told by a watchdog to apologise to a tenant management organisation in Lancashire. The details of the long running complaint are complicated, but the upshot of the problem was that the Tenant Services Authority did not communicate with the TMO clearly enough. It incorrectly directed it to the housing ombudsman, which does not deal with complaints from organisations.
The HCA was adamant that it operates differently to the TSA and said it ‘places great importance on complaint handling’, implying the TSA did not. It is currently reviewing the way it deals with complaints and has pledged to write to frontline staff within four weeks to remind them of how they should ‘signpost’ enquiries.
How the HCA directs enquiries to other bodies is going to be crucial in the years ahead.
The regulator is no longer responsible for consumer regulation, except in cases involving the mysterious and undefined ‘serious detriment’.
However, as Ralph Smale, senior risk and assurance manager at the HCA, said in April, the regulator will still receive lots of complaints and enquiries from tenants, many of whom will be unaware of the regulator’s changed role.
The HCA needs to ensure it has the resources in place to adequately and accurately direct tenants to the best organisations or bodies to handle their complaint, be it the social landlord, tenant panels, MPs or the housing ombudsman.
The parliamentary and health service ombudsman’s report last week may only represent a rap on the knuckles for the HCA, which seems happy to blame its predecessor. However it is crucial the agency takes on board the recommendation to prevent complainants receiving incorrect information.
From Housing matters
Carl Brown looks at regulation, training, board members, pay and a host of other issues that impact the day to day running of social landlords