Ombudsman raps HCA over predecessor’s handling of a complaint
Regulator found guilty of maladministration
A watchdog has told the social housing regulator to apologise for its predecessor’s handling of a complaint from a tenant management organisation.
The parliamentary and health service ombudsman found maladministration in the way the Tenant Services Authority communicated with a TMO which was unhappy about its handling of a complaint.
As a result, the new regulator, the Homes and Communities Agency, which does not deal with consumer complaints unless they cause ‘serious detriment’ to tenants, has pledged to remind front line staff about appropriate directing of individual and group complaints to other organisations.
In a report, published on 24 August, the ombudsman told Pat Ritchie, chief executive of the HCA, to write to John Challinor, company secretary of Bacup & Stacksteads TMO, within four weeks to apologise for ‘injustice caused’.
The TMO, which managed 960 homes in Rossendale, Lancashire, complained that the TSA failed to properly investigate its claim that Trans-Pennine Housing, now part of Together Housing Group, had engaged in ‘corporate bullying’ of the TMO. This related to a decision in February 2010 to stop funding for the TMO.
The TMO claimed the TSA had also failed to implement recommendations made by the Independent Complaints Reviewer stating the TSA should apologise for the way it handled the complaint and review the way it ‘signposts’ future complaints. The TSA incorrectly referred the TMO’s complaint to the housing ombudsman, which only hears individual cases.
The ombudsman found the TSA’s decision not to investigate the bullying allegation was ‘reasonable’ but upheld the complaint relating to its failure to implement the ICR recommendations.
It said not reviewing the way it directs complaints ‘did not demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement’.
The ombudsman described the TSA’s refusal to apologise to Mr Challinor as ‘very poor’ and criticised it for not responding to a letter from Mr Challinor in September 2010.
A HCA spokesperson said the TSA operated in a different way to the HCA, which places great importance on its complaint handling.
He added the HCA is considering the recommendations but was unable to confirm whether Ms Ritchie will apologise or not.