Nearly seven out of every 10 tenants are confused by the system for making complaints about housing. The Ombudsman Services, which resolves complaints between parties, has been asking for opinions about how complaints within the housing sector should be dealt with. From the responses, 69% of people were confused by the system set up to make complaints, and 55% did not know where they should go to complain about property or housing. It said that these findings show an overwhelming need to change the system.

The information came from around 400 tenants, homeowners, buy-to-let landlords and other people working in the housing sector, so it was actually gathered from people who have a vested interest to know about such things. The problems were varied, but included issues with letting agencies, estate agents, new-build properties, gas leaks, dangerous electrics, asbestos and unauthorised parking. With the majority of people finding the present system a maze, it is no wonder that 84% of them backed the idea of setting up a single housing ombudsman. At the moment, there are several bodies covering the housing sector, which only adds to the confusion. It is not surprising that people with complaints will contact the wrong body to deal with them, and may have to speak to two or three organisations before finding the right one. The respondents told the OS about several instances, including one tenant who had a mouldy kitchen but did not make a complaint for fear of eviction.

The findings in the Building Balance report have now been submitted to the government as part of its consultation process into the housing sector and setting up a single ombudsman service. The government suggests that setting up a single housing ombudsman could provide a more comprehensive system for everyone – homeowners, buyers, landlords and tenants. The OS has already said it will work with other parties to help form this new housing ombudsman service. A few months back, it said it planned to withdraw from the present system because it felt it could not offer broken solutions to a broken market. From its latest findings, the OS feels the current system for making housing complaints is confusing and, therefore, ineffective. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it would be looking at all responses to the consultation before publishing its response.

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