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Housing complaints – a guide for tenants and leaseholders

The social housing functions undertaken by our housing departments are regulated by the Regulator of Social Housing and fall within the jurisdiction of the Housing Ombudsman for complaint handling compliance. This is different to the rest of the council’s service areas which are overseen by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The housing services teams are committed to delivering excellent housing services. Whilst we always strive to meet your needs, on occasions we recognise that our services may fall short of your expectations.

In such circumstances we would always encourage you to contact us at the earliest opportunity as we may be able to simply resolve or put the issue right for you.

If, however, you do feel that a complaint is appropriate, the Council’s Complaints and compliments policy sets out how the Council will deal with complaints relating to its social (council) housing services. By this we mean those services delivered to council tenants in council homes and leaseholders of properties in blocks of flats managed by our housing team.

Our investigations will:

  • deal with complaints on their merits, act independently, and have an open approach
  • give you a fair chance to set out your position
  • take measures to address any actual or perceived conflict of interest
  • consider all relevant information and evidence carefully
  • accept complaints received from, and liaise with, third parties acting on your behalf, subject to relevant permission to discuss personal information, in line with GDPR regulations.

Our decision making will be:

  • within stipulated timescales
  • acknowledge when things have gone wrong, the reasons for this, and what will be done to put things right
  • effectively communicated
  • proportionate - if a complainant makes unreasonable demands, which are outside the boundaries of our service delivery this will be communicated to the complainant as early as possible
  • offer appropriate remedy / redress, where service failure is identified.

Putting things right

We encourage complaints and are committed to using them as a learning experience and, where appropriate, we will offer remedies to put things right. This can be done in a variety of ways including re-attending a repair job, reviewing a decision, offering an apology or explanation, and / or arriving at a solution which may prevent issues reoccurring.

We will also make amendments to policies, procedures, or to the way a service is provided, if it is found these are leading to dissatisfaction with the service.

Who can complain?

Any tenant or leaseholder who feels that they have had a poor service from us or from someone providing the service for us can make a complaint.

We understand that you may be unable or reluctant to make a complaint yourself. Therefore, we can take complaints from a friend, relative, or an advocate, on your behalf. If you ask someone to make a complaint on your behalf, we will ask you to give formal consent for them to discuss your personal information or send any documents containing personal information to you directly, for you to share with your advocate, should you wish to. You can also have someone attend any appointments with you or on your behalf.

If you are not a tenant or leaseholder of the Council you cannot use the housing complaints procedure to complain about someone who is a tenant or leaseholder. However, the housing team will still assist you with attempting to resolve your dissatisfaction and you may be able to make a complaint about service provision, which would fall under the jurisdiction of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

Making a complaint

You can make a complaint through: 

Ashfield District Council
Urban Road
Kirkby in Ashfield
Nottingham
NG17 8DA.

Due to the nature and volume of contact received via the Council’s social media channels it is not always possible to review and action all comments/posts, therefore, the Council will not accept complaints received via social media.

If you do feel that it is necessary to make a complaint about our housing service it is extremely helpful if you can explain what you are concerned about and how you would like it resolved as this may mean we can rectify the issue for you in a much quicker timescale and to your satisfaction.

We may be able to offer you support and assistance to make a complaint, if you are finding it difficult to do this independently. If you require help in preparing your complaint, please contact us on 01623 450000 or at info@ashfield.gov.uk for more information. You may be directed to the relevant area for assistance in preparing your complaint in the first instance.

Complaints process

Complaints managed by the Housing Ombudsman will be investigated in 2 stages, as set out within the Housing Ombudsman Service's Housing Complaints Code

Stage 1: Formal response from a manager in the relevant service area

The complainant submits the complaint which will be acknowledged in writing within 5 days of receipt and then investigated by the appropriate manager.

Timescale:

The complainant will normally receive a written response to their complaint within 10 working days from the date the complaint is acknowledged. The response will confirm the outcome of the investigation and what action, if any, will be taken.

If the complainant remains dissatisfied with the stage 1 response, they can request that the complaint is escalated to stage 2. The request should contain new or additional information that is relevant to their continued dissatisfaction, but you do not need to tell us why you remain dissatisfied, but this can be beneficial if you are able to do so.

Stage 2: Review and response from the relevant Assistant / Executive Director 

The complainant can request their complaint to be reviewed by the relevant Assistant / Executive Director.

The escalation will be acknowledged in writing within 5 working days of receipt and then investigated by the relevant Assistant / Executive Director.

Timescale:

A full review of the case will be undertaken, and a written response will normally be provided within 20 working days from the first working day from the acknowledgement of the complaint.

Stage two of the complaints process concludes our complaints process and once complete will exhaust our internal process. If a complainant remains dissatisfied with the findings at stage 2, they can refer the matter to the Housing Ombudsman for independent review. 

In expectational circumstances and depending on the complexity of the complaint, we may need longer to investigate and fully respond to all of your areas of dissatisfaction. If we require an extension, we will notify you as early as possible, explain the reasons why, and advise you when you can expect to receive a response.

Housing Ombudsman

Our tenants and leaseholders can contact the Housing Ombudsman for support and advice regarding our landlord functions or existing complaints at any stage of the process, including prior to submitting a complaint.

However, the Housing Ombudsman will normally only commence formal investigation into a complaint once you have exhausted our complaints process.

Once a complaint is received by the Housing Ombudsman a decision will be made on whether to investigate the complaint and if the complaint falls within their jurisdiction.

Should the Housing Ombudsman decide to undertake an investigation into a complaint, they will liaise with us to request any information they require to support their investigations. This will typically include copies of any relevant documents, policies and information that supported the decision making at each stage of the complaints process.

Once the Housing Ombudsman has completed their investigation, they will communicate their decision to both the complainant and the Council in order that any recommendations can be actioned or implemented, where necessary.

The Housing Ombudsman Service contact details are:

Housing Ombudsman Service
PO Box 1484
Unit D
Preston
PR2 0ET

You can find out more information about the Housing Ombudsman on its website:

Housing Ombudsman complaint handling code: Self-assessment

The Housing Ombudsman has a complaint handling code, which is periodically reviewed, which sets out their expectations of how member landlords should manage complaints received, that fall within their jurisdiction. All areas of the Code are mandatory; where a landlord is unable to comply with an element of the Code they will have to explain the reason why they are unable to comply and what action they are taking to work towards compliance. Compliance with the code is a statutory obligation, which means all social housing landlords have to comply with the code, by law.

To demonstrate compliance with the code, the Housing Ombudsman requires all member landlords to complete and publish an annual self-assessment against the code, along with an annual complaints performance report, both of which should be shared with Managers, Elected Members, and our Tenants.

Once completed the self-assessment and annual complaints performance report will be available in the related documents section of this web page.

Housing complaints satisfaction

Once we have responded to a stage 1 housing complaint, we'd like to know how satisfied the complainant is with how their complaint was handled and the outcome, so we can use this information to make improvements to the process.

We will include information on how we have fully considered your complaint in line with our Complaints and Compliments Policy. We will also include details of how the complainant can complete a short satisfaction survey.

To assist with improving our services we are grateful for complainants taking the time to provide feedback on the handling of their complaint. You can do this through our online form, or download a copy to send back to us from the related documents section of this page. 

Housing complaints satisfaction survey

Completing the survey

The survey asks you to indicate if you were satisfied with:

Handling of the complaint

  • The handling of your complaint

This refers to issues such as how we communicated to you during the process or the length of time we took to respond.

  • The staff who dealt with your complaint were helpful and polite

This refers to the approach of our staff when dealing with your complaint.

  • How easy the process to access and understand

This refers to how easy it was for you to understand what is required to follow the process.

Outcome of the complaint

  • The outcome of your complaint

This refers to issues such as whether we addressed all the issues which concerned you and whether we resolved those issues to your satisfaction or in a reasonable manner.

  • The areas of your complaints were addressed

This refers to your complaint and that we have set out how we have addressed each element of your complaint.

  • The reasons for the outcome of your complaint were fully explained

This refers to issues regarding the explanation and that we set out the reasons for our decision.

Contacting us regarding Housing complaints

If you have any questions regarding the Housing complaints process, you can contact the Complaints Standards Lead Officer: