Earlier this year, the Government gave its response to the consultation on ‘Strengthening Consumer Redress in the Housing Market’.
This consultation ran for two months at the beginning of last year and considered the current procedure for addressing complaints and disputes in the housing market and whether the process could be improved.
The Government wants to focus on empowering tenants, ensuring that tenants in both the private rented sector and social housing have confidence in renting. Complaints and disputes should be dealt with fairly and in a timely manner, and tenants will be compensated where due. The current mechanism for resolving disputes is seen to be confusing, complicated, and cumbersome. The Government is also looking to move the resolution of disputes away from the courts and hopes that these measures will achieve this.
The Government has announced that they will be introducing legislation in England to address the following:
- All private landlords, including private providers of purpose-built student housing and park home site operators must belong to a redress scheme. Failure to belong to a redress scheme will result in a financial penalty of up to £5,000. These measures reflect the requirements introduced in 2014 for all letting and managing agents in England to become a member of a redress scheme.
- A ‘New Homes Ombudsman’ for developers of new-builds. It is proposed that developers of new-builds will need to be members of this Ombudsman by 2021 if they wish to participate in the Government’s landmark Help to Buy scheme.
- Establish a working group (to be known as the Redress Reform Working Group) to develop a ‘Housing Complaints Resolution Service’. This resolution service is intended to be a one-stop-shop for housing complaints. It is intended to be used by tenants and leaseholders (social and private rented sector) as well as purchasers of new-build homes and users of all residential property agents.
- The working group is also to review the current standards of resolving disputes with a view to creating a single ‘Code of Practice’ on complaint handling across all tenures, to ensure consistency and to raise the standard of service consumers should expect when they seek help.
No date has been set for the introduction of the new rules, but the Government has said that they will bring forward legislation at the earliest possible opportunity (once parliamentary time allows).