James Brokenshire, Communities Secretary, has announced an overhaul of the housing complaints system, which is likely to come at a cost for private landlords. Calling the system “broken”, the Communities Secretary is planning for the compulsory registration of all private landlords to a redress scheme, which would operate in a similar way to schemes already in place for letting agents. The Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced the plans earlier this month within a press release from the government.
The plans would mean that for the first time ever, private landlords would be legally required to enrol with the housing redress scheme. The MP has stated that this will boost protection for the millions of tenants currently renting in the UK. The plans build on the government’s intended reforms to establish a fair housing market which works for all. From cracks in walls to broken boilers, the planned Housing Complaints Resolution Service will have the potential to aid millions of people by providing simple and straightforward methods of gaining help when confronted with unresolved disputes and problems with their homes, including maintenance and repairs.
Unlike other industries, like financial services, the housing sector already has several different authorities for grievances, with tenants and homeowners required to navigate their own route through bureaucratic and complicated systems just to find out how to register a complaint. Forming a single service for housing complaints for all residents, whether tenants or homeowners, the scheme will prevent individuals from struggling to contend with builders or landlords and attempting to resolve problems on their own. The system aims to make it simpler for people to claim compensation as it is owed.
Mr Brokenshire MP emphasised that the housing market must work for everyone, not just for developers building homes. It is also about ensuring that everyone has access to help if or when an issue arises. However, the process is often found to be bewildering, leaving many tenants and homeowners feeling as if there is nowhere to turn to for help.
It is hoped that the announced proposals will help to ensure all residents have access to help as required, so disputes are resolved faster. Currently, in the private rented sector, landlords have no obligation to register with a scheme for complaints, which leaves renters across the UK with no opportunity for redress. Private landlords will be required by law to become a member of the redress scheme, with potential fines of up to £5,000 for failure to join.
The proposals for the policy announced by the government will relate mainly to England. The government also reiterated its obligation in establishing the New Homes Ombudsman, which aims to champion buyers, safeguard their interests and hold housing developers to account. Legislation will be created which requires all developers to register with the Ombudsman, where they must belong to this new authority by 2021 in order to participate in the government’s Help to Buy scheme.
The Housing Complaints Resolution Service is being established alongside a new Redress Reform Working Group consisting of representatives from the sector. This forms part of the government’s aims to make the property market more transparent.
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