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Campaign - 22nd May 2015

Consultation re Govt Approved Redress Scheme for Social Housing Leaseholders

Inclusion of a reference to the right to take a complaint about a property manager to a Government approved redress scheme, in the existing (prescribed) summaries of rights and obligations served on leaseholders in respect of demands for service charges, and administration charges.

Response by Haringey Leaseholders Campaign Group to leasehold.reform@communities.gsi.gov.uk on 22 May 2015. Our membership is made out of social housing leaseholders in Haringey.

It is well known that the prescribed summaries accompanying service charges must be sent with the demands to pay for such charges or leaseholders may withhold the service charge. Social landlords are members of the Housing Ombudsman Service scheme, which allows the Housing Ombudsman to resolve disputes, including making awards of compensation or other remedies when appropriate as well as to support effective landlord-tenant dispute resolution by others.

Therefore, there is a legal duty of social landlords to register with the scheme, but social landlords may also withdraw from the Scheme. In addition, the Ombudsman, we believe, will not deal with the level of rent or service charge or the amount of the rent or service charge increase.

Yet, the level of the service charge is usually a bone of contention between leaseholder in social housing and social housing providers. Large service firms or in-house departments within local authorities provide services for large premiums, because tenders for such services attract only large companies who can look after often thousands of flats. The usual leaseholder/local authority disputes relate to the levels of the service charges or quality of works, which ultimately affect the level of the service charges. These cannot be deal with by the Ombudsman.

We don’t quite understand what would be achieved by the inclusion of the right to contact the Housing Ombudsman in the summaries of the rights and obligations in respect of social housing leaseholders.

Every public body would or already have have a complaint procedure in place and any leaseholder can complaint about unfair treatment, avoidable delays and failure to follow procedures, rudeness or discourtesy and poor incompetent service. If such complaint procedure cannot bring a closure, leaseholders can take their matter to the Housing Ombudsman.

As the approved redress schemes are unable to deal with service charges, they are not an alternative to the First –Tier Tribunal.

Unfortunately, in case of social landlords the inclusion of the reference to The Housing Ombudsman could be misleading for social housing leaseholders.

If there was any reference made to the Housing Ombudsman or any housing redress scheme, the wording should reflect the following:

“Leaseholders in the social sector may have the right to complain to the Housing Ombudsman about the service received from their landlord or property manager. However, the Housing Ombudsman cannot deal with the level of rent or service charge nor the amount of the rent or service charge increase.”

Regretfully, the current consultation does not deal with any potential regulatory changes that would encourage social landlords resolving issues of service charges being reasonable or services provided being of higher quality.

Yours faithfully

Haringey Leaseholders Campaign Group
www.hlcg.org.uk