The government has pledged to launch a “powerful new Ombudsman” to solve disputes between landlords with renters. Here’s the information published about the Ombudsman, as detailed in the White Paper ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector
A new Ombudsman covering all private landlords
The government is committed to making sure that PRS tenants have the same access to redress as those living in other types of housing. That is why we will introduce a single government-approved Ombudsman covering all private landlords who rent out property in England, regardless of whether they use an agent. This will ensure that all tenants have access to redress services in any given situation, and that landlords remain accountable for their own conduct and legal responsibilities. Making membership of an Ombudsman scheme mandatory for landlords who use managing agents will mitigate the situation where a good agent is trying to remedy a complaint but is reliant on a landlord who is refusing to engage.
Ombudsmen protect consumer rights. They provide fair, impartial, and binding resolutions for many issues without resorting to court. This will be quicker, cheaper, less adversarial, and more proportionate than the court system. A single scheme will mean a streamlined service for tenants and landlords, avoiding the confusion and perverse incentives resulting from competitive schemes. As well as resolving individual disputes, an Ombudsman can tackle the root cause of problems, address systemic issues, provide feedback and education to members and consumers, and offer support for vulnerable consumers. We will explore streamlining the requirement for landlords to provide details to both an Ombudsman and a digital Property Portal, including identifying a viable way to link datasets.
The new Ombudsman will allow tenants to seek redress for free, where they have a complaint about their tenancy. This could include complaints about the behaviour of the landlord, the standards of the property or where repairs have not been completed within a reasonable timeframe. We will make membership of the Ombudsman mandatory and local councils will be able to take enforcement action against landlords that fail to join the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman will have powers to put things right for tenants, including compelling landlords to issue an apology, provide information, take remedial action, and/or pay compensation of up to £25,000. As part of providing compensation, we also intend for the Ombudsman to be able to require landlords to reimburse rent to tenants where the service or standard of property they provide falls short of the mark. In keeping with standard practice, the Ombudsman’s decision will be binding on landlords, should the complainant accept the final determination. Failure to comply with a decision may result in repeat or serious offenders being liable for a Banning Order. The government will also retain discretionary powers to enable the Ombudsman’s decisions to be enforced through the Courts if levels of compliance become a concern.
We will explore extending mandatory membership of a redress scheme to residential park home operators, private providers of purpose-built student accommodation and property guardian companies. This would provide access to redress for residents across approximately 2,000 park homes sites in England, 30% of university students living in purpose-built student accommodation, and approximately 5,000 to 7,000 property guardians.