Ombudsman Services, which recently announced it was quitting its role as one of three approved redress schemes for estate and lettings agents, has now launched a consumer exercise to assess public views about the wider property industry.
The initiative, which it calls Building Balance, is described by the organisation as “a dialogue being run to look at how consumers can be better protected by improving how complaints are handled in the housing sector.”
This is seen as a bid to fulfil the ambition recently expressed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to have just one Ombudsman scheme covering all aspects of property and housing issues, including new homes.
“Building Balance is inviting all renters, tenants, homeowners and those working in the sector to come forward and have their say about the issues that affect them: the problems they’ve faced, their experiences of complaining and how they would recommend changing the complaints system” says a statement from Ombudsman Services.
This dialogue is continuing until April 5 and is being conducted through an online questionnaire. The timing of the questionnaire dovetails with the government’s formal consultation on a unified redress operation across the industry.
“Not only are many consumers facing issues, they’re also being left in the dark about who they can turn to, and OS will use this initiative to understand key ‘pain points’ for tenants and home buyers and consult with them about the shape of a new service” says the organisation.
Ombudsman Services is a not-for-profit organisation - already the largest multi-sector ombudsman in the UK - and pledges to work with charities, consumer groups and property professionals on the best way to make complaining in the sector work better for everyone involved.
“During our 10 years helping consumers with complaints in the housing sector, we have seen first-hand the impact that the confusing and complicated system has had on them” says the body’s chief ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith.
“Housing is one of the biggest issues we face as a nation, but the current system for resolving complaints is broken. It's difficult to know where to go to complain, the current system is ineffective, and doesn’t provide the service that consumers need” he continues.
“We believe a fair, balanced, system that has the legal powers to put things right is required, one that will serve the whole of society and gives people a voice when it comes to their homes. So we are working to develop a model that works for everyone.”
You can see the questionnaire here: www.buildingbalance.co.uk