Hyde Housing has slapped down Michael Gove’s department over attempts to improve housing association complaint handling.
The 50,000 home landlord has hit back at government pressure by issuing a new, more restrictive, complaints policy. Hyde will no longer investigate complaints about rents or service charges, even if the complainant is highlighting extortionate, inaccurate, or fraudulent charges.
We will decline to investigate complaints that concern the level of rent or service charge or the amount of rent or service charge increase.Hyde Housing Complaints & Compensation Policy (January 2023)
The move has sparked outrage amongst tenants and residents. One responded that chief executive Andy Hulme should be “fined and sacked for allowing this to happen”. Another noted “They can charge whatever they like for whatever they like, and we don’t have a leg to stand on!”.
This change of policy is a slap in the face for Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, whose department has been trying to cajole housing associations to improve complaints handling systems.
In December, government announced that it had paid out £500,000 to a company to provide training courses for social housing tenants on how to make complaints. This implies that the problem lies with tenants who are failing to complain properly to landlords about disrepairs, extortionate service charges, or ill-treatment, as far as Michael Gove is concerned.
The Department for Levelling Up’s victim blaming scheme announced in December 2022
The announcement was followed by a series of adverts encouraging tenants and residents to complain to their landlords and to the Housing Ombudsman.
Almost exactly a year ago, Gove took to the airwaves to publicly name and shame Clarion, Britain’s largest housing association, for failing to respond effectively to complaints from tenants and residents mainly about disrepairs. Gove’s action had no discernable impact on the landlord.
Likewise the Housing Ombudsman has been pressuring housing associations to improve on complaints handling, but these attempts also appear ineffective. The Ombudsman recently reported that a quarter of complaint handling failure orders were ignored. In other words, landlords are ignoring instructions from the Ombudsman to address failings, and there is little penalty for non-compliance.
Of the orders that were ignored, 21 were issued to housing associations, and this cohort includes Hyde Housing. (Housing Ombudsman: Quarter of Complaint Handling Failure Orders Not Complied With).
Tenant and Resident Mobilisation
These failures make clear that neither government departments nor housing regulatory bodies are acting effectively to change the behaviour of super-sized housing associations who consider themselves above the law.
Tenants and residents must organise collectively to force through changes which make housing associations accountable and responsive to those who live in their properties. Join us and add your input here.
13 March 2023