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Complaints performance

The Housing Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code – self-assessment

In July 2020, the Housing Ombudsman published its Complaint Handling Code.

This sets out how landlords should respond to complaints effectively and fairly.

We aligned our policy and procedure in November and self-assessed against the code in December.

Here are the results:

Definition of a complaint

  • Does the complaints process use the following definition of a complaint?
    "An expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions or lack of action by the organisation, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf, affecting an individual resident or group of residents."

    Yes.
  • Does the policy have exclusions where a complaint will not be considered?
    Yes.
  • Are these exclusions reasonable and fair to residents?
    We aim to resolve any issue our residents have, so, we have very few exclusions in our complaints policy.

    Those we have, mirror those of the Ombudsman or are covered by separate policies.

    We don’t consider:
    • legal claims, including disrepair and insurance claims
    • cases involving court action
    • antisocial behaviour managed under a separate policy
    • issues over six months old

Accessibility

  • Are multiple accessibility routes available for residents to make a complaint?
    We accept complaints in any of these ways:
    • telephone
    • letter
    • email
    • online
    • social media
  • Is the complaints policy and procedure available online?
    Both are available online along with our compensation policy.
  • Do we have a reasonable adjustments policy?
    Yes.
  • Do we regularly advise residents about our complaints process?
    Yes.

Complaints team and process

  • Is there a complaint officer or equivalent in post?
    We have a dedicated Complaint team and individuals in the business with the appropriate authority and skills to resolve complaints.
  • Does the complaint officer have autonomy to resolve complaints?
    Yes.
  • Does the complaint officer have authority to compel engagement from other departments to resolve disputes?
    All of us are accountable for what we do at L&Q, so, complaints feature in everyone’s Objectives.

    We must manage complaints and support others to.

    This removes the need for individuals to have to compel other departments to help – it will happen as it’s the right thing to do.
  • If there is a third stage to the complaints procedure are residents involved in the decision making?
    Not applicable.
  • Is any third stage optional for residents?
    Not applicable
  • Does the final stage response set out residents’ right to refer the matter to the Housing Ombudsman Service?
    Yes.
  • Do we keep a record of complaint correspondence including correspondence from the resident?
    Yes.
  • At what stage are most complaints resolved?
    Stage one.

    Not surprisingly we resolve most of our residents’ concerns when they first contact us.

    Those that become complaints are put right at the first stage 98% of the time.

Communication

  • Are residents kept informed and updated during the complaints process?
    We will agree with our customer when and how often we’ll keep in touch.
  • Are residents informed of the landlord’s position and given a chance to respond and challenge any area of dispute before the final decision?
    Yes.
  • Are all complaints acknowledged and logged within five days?
    We log all complaints on receipt and aim to acknowledge at least 90% of them by the end of the next working day.

    We acknowledged 89% by the end of the next day and 96.8% within five days.
  • Are residents advised of how to escalate at the end of each stage?
    Yes.
  • What proportion of complaints are resolved at stage one?
    98%.
  • What proportion of complaints are resolved at stage two?
    2%.
  • What proportion of complaint responses are sent within Code timescales?
    Stage one (<10 working days) = 90.8%
    Stage one (11-20 working days) = 95.4%

    Stage two (<20 working days) = 100%
    Stage two (21-30 working days) = 100%
  • Where timescales have been extended, did we have good reason?
    We recently adopted the new code and are updating our systems to enable us to report on some of these metrics.

    We will publish results when we can.
  • Where timescales have been extended, did we keep the resident informed?
    Yes.
  • What proportion of complaints do we resolve to residents’ satisfaction?
    • Satisfied: 51.5%
    • Dissatisfied: 7.0%
    • Unknown: 41.5%

Cooperation with Housing Ombudsman Service

  • Were all requests for evidence responded to within 15 days?
    In some cases, it takes longer to gather all the relevant information, but we will always agree an extension with the Ombudsman.
  • Where the timescale was extended, did we keep the Ombudsman informed?
    Yes.

Fairness in complaint handling

  • Are residents able to complain via a representative throughout?
    Yes.
  • If advice was given, was this accurate and easy to understand?
    We review a sample of complaints every month for quality and we have yet to identify an example of giving inappropriate or misleading information.
  • How many cases did we refuse to escalate?
    Currently under review.

    We recently adopted the new code and are updating our systems to enable us to report on some of these metrics.

    We will publish results when we can.
  • What was the reason for the refusal?
    In the past, if our resident asked to escalate a complaint, we would independently review the merits and only escalate if the outcome didn’t reflect our policies and procedures.

    We now escalate the complaint if our resident is dissatisfied with the outcome.
  • Did we explain our decision to the resident?
    We will always explain why we won’t escalate a complaint – although we don’t anticipate refusing to escalate.

Outcomes and remedies

  • Where something has gone wrong, are we taking appropriate steps to put things right?
    Currently under review.

    We recently adopted the new code and are updating our systems to enable us to report on some of these metrics.

    We will publish results when we can.

Continuous learning and improvement

  • What improvements have we made as a result of learning from complaints?
    Complaints caused by new builds

    Handover procedures are more collaborative after forming the Scheme Adoption team.

    From the design stage through to post-handover, expertise from the team contributes to making more informed project decisions – whether that’s design or setting up service contracts on our buildings and systems after handover.

    Increased boiler breakdowns in winter

    We have a targeted campaign reminding people to check their boilers before winter arrives.

    The complaint numbers have improved but not everyone follows the advice.
  • How do we share these lessons with residents, the Board and Governing body?
    Residents:

    Through the Residents Services Board, Annual Report and this self-assessment

    The Board/Governing body:

    Through the Group Board Report, Annual Report and this self-assessment
  • Has the Code made a difference to how we respond to complaints?
    Complaints have been in the spotlight for some time and we have been adapting our service to meet the needs of our residents since early 2019.

    But the Code has focused everyone’s attention – from our frontline, through all levels of management to the executive and Group Board.

    It has been a topic at our exec casts for the last few months to remind everyone of the importance.
  • What changes have we made?
    • Escalated complaints go to our Customer Relations team to independently review
    • Send a written decision at the end of each stage
    • Each business area has a complaint coordinator to ensure people follow the process and to answer any questions people might have – a dotted line into the central complaint team for consistency
    • Simplified our policy
    • Developed templates for our decision letters to ensure people cover everything
    • Improved our complaint training so people understand the code and their contribution