The current Housing Ombudsman, Richard Blakeway has written a piece in the Conservative Home website, that has stated that private landlords have no reason to dread the expansion of an Ombudsman service into the buy-to-let sector. Blakeway’s argument is premised on the need for a single, distinct Ombudsman for the private rental sector, thereby ensuring lucidity for both landlords and consumers.
The Ombudsman reasons that private landlords might perceive the establishment of a sector-specific Ombudsman as an additional bureaucratic load. However, he is adamant that this misinterprets the role of the Ombudsman.
He clarifies, “Our decisions are impartial and rooted in fairness: around half of the cases we investigate are not upheld. This can be an effective way for the landlord to resolve a dispute where relationships with tenants have broken down. If something has gone wrong, the remedies are not punitive – they are simply aimed at putting the consumer back in the position they would have enjoyed had things been as they should. If requirements are not being met, surely it is better to learn through an Ombudsman decision than risk repeating the same mistakes?”
According to Blakeway, the recent history of redress should serve as a warning to the government on how not to proceed. “Six years ago, ministers declared the system of housing redress broken. Then the proposal was to simplify and strengthen it, including consolidation through a single housing Ombudsman, providing a modern and agile response to a changing housing market. Yet today there are more bodies than ever. Consumers may have to approach at least seven different organisations to get their issues addressed. This may mean neighbours going down different routes – even for the same issue.”
Blakeway maintains that this disjointed approach serves neither the consumer nor the provider, as it potentially forces the latter to join and navigate multiple schemes. He says, “It sucks up energy and innovation, and makes it harder to identify and implement lessons to improve services … The dysfunctions in the housing market should not be compounded in the way problems are redressed.”