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Category: government and politics

The landscape of resolving disputes in the UK Private Rental Sector (PRS) is set to undergo a significant transformation. The government has indicated that the Housing Ombudsman Service is likely to play a new and central role in administering redress for private tenants.

Government minister Jacob Young spoke on the subject, at a public Renter’s Reform Bill committee meeting.

While a formal announcement on who will deliver the service cannot be made before the Renters Reform Bill is published, he said that the existing Scheme serving the social sector is best placed to do the job.

A new service from an established provider

Under the proposed framework, private landlords would be legally obligated to join the Housing Ombudsman Service (assuming that is the organisation it falls to), which marks a departure from the current voluntary registration process.

Once landlords are enrolled, dissatisfied tenants renting directly from a landlord will have the option to escalate complaints to the ombudsman, providing them with a dispute resolution option.

When this change is enacted, it would mean there would be two  redress routes in the UK for private tenants.

Route one, for private tenants in homes managed by letting agents, will see their complaints go to either The Property Ombudsman, or the Property Redress Scheme (depending on which the agency is enrolled with).

If the outcome goes ahead as intended, route two - for private tenants who let from landlords directly - would be able to turn to the Housing Ombudsman Service, the same service as social tenants.

The Department of Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities (DLUHC) released a statement saying:

We intend for our Ombudsman Service to complement the existing housing redress landscape. This will ensure that tenants, regardless of whether they rent socially or privately, have high-quality, consistent access to redress where they have a legitimate complaint about their home

The expansion of the Housing Ombudsman Service will be substantial, with an additional 4.6 million tenants added to its remit, once the scheme is operational.

Richard Blakeway, Chief of the Housing Ombudsman Service, was quoted saying:

The Housing Ombudsman is the only approved scheme for landlord redress and the opportunity to bring our expertise to the private rented sector would benefit millions of tenants, closing the gap between social and private tenants redress.

One place for housing residents to come to complain means redress can be simpler, with improved accessibility, consistent decision-making and insights brought together to support landlords to manage homes.

The Renters' Reform Bill, published in May, had initially proposed a new service in addition to the Housing Ombudsman Service. However, Young appears to favour a single scheme for social and private tenants dealing directly with their landlord. This would be a simpler outcome and make use of existing skills and experience.

While details of the Housing Ombudsman Service scheme are yet to be published, the overarching shift toward mandatory redress mechanisms signifies a commitment to ensuring a fair and efficient resolution process for housing-related disputes.