Housing Ombudsman Complaint Handling Code - Self Assessment

Compliance with the Complaint Handling Code

1. Definition of a complaint

Does the complaints process use the following definition of a complaint? 

An expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions or lack of action by the organisation, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf, affecting an individual resident or group of residents. 

The answer is: Yes

Does the policy have exclusions where a complaint will not be considered?

The answer is: Yes

Are these exclusions reasonable and fair to residents?

The answer is: Yes

Evidence relied upon (extract from the complaints policy):

There are some issues that the Council cannot investigate under its Housing Management Complaints policy, which include:

  • complaints about potential data breaches. 
  • a matter that has already been heard by a Court or tribunal or any Council review panel
  • a matter where the customer or the Council has started legal proceedings or has taken court action
  • complaints that involve insurance claims against the Council, although there may be some aspects that do fall within this policy such as an allegation that the Council delayed in sending information about how to make an insurance claim
  • serious complaints about a Council officer that would more properly be dealt with through the Council’s disciplinary code, staff management or performance procedures i.e. allegations of serious misconduct such as fraud
  • complaints from members of staff relating to personnel matters
  • allegations of fraud or corruption that would more properly be dealt with under the Council’s anti-fraud or whistleblowing procedures
  • complaints about councillors, as these are dealt with under separate procedures
  • complaints about a Council policy
  • criminal actions
  • complaints about the behaviour of another Council tenant which would be dealt with by a housing officer or area manager
  • complaints about the level of rent and service charge set by the Council. These will be dealt with by the relevant service area who will be able to check the information and provide explanations as to how the figures have been calculated
  • when a complainant refuses to engage with the Council or the complaints process, and is abusive to officers or acts unreasonably
  • a dispute over a commercial contract where the relationship is between a private landlord and the Council.

If the Complaints Team receive a complaint regarding any of the matters above, they will pass it on to the relevant team who will contact you.

The Council does reserve the right to refuse to deal with complaints, or deal with them differently, if they are pursued unreasonably or could be handled more effectively in a different manner.

There are also separate arrangements in place for handling complaints linked to the following services:

  • Social Services, Schools, Parking Matters, Planning Applications and Housing/Council Tax Benefits.  If you are unhappy with a decision about these services, the letter notifying you of the decision should explain how to complain.
  • Waste collection - for information on how to complain about waste collection contact Street line on 020 7361 3001 or email [email protected]
  • Sports centres - please contact the General Manager at Chelsea Sports Centre in the first instance.  If you do not receive a satisfactory response, the matter should be escalated to the GLL Partnership Manager who is based at Head Office, Middlegate House, The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, London SE18 6SX.  Alternatively, you can contact the customer services line on 020 3457 8700 or email [email protected]


2. Accessibility

Are multiple accessibility routes available for residents to make a complaint?

The answer is: Yes

Residents can complaint online via the Council’s complaints web form, by phone, email, or in writing.

Is the complaints policy and procedure available online?

The answer is: Yes

It can be found on our page about housing management complaints and feedback.

Do we have a reasonable adjustments policy?

The answer is: Yes

We do not have a policy of this name however we have the Council’s Customer Access Strategy. This aims to make it easier for all residents to interact with the Council, and to resolve their queries at the point of contact rather than having to wait for several days before they get an answer/solution to their query.

The first step towards that, is the Council’s fully accessible website, built upon residents’ feedback to ensure it meets their needs.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, as an employer, and as a provider of services to the public and other public bodies is committed to complying with the Equality Act 2010. 

There is no prescribed list of reasonable adjustments, and we do not make assumptions about an individual’s needs. Therefore, the adjustment will depend (upon discussion) on the individual’s needs. Types of reasonable adjustments we offer include: 

  • step-free access to our Customer Service Centre
  • British Sign Language (BSL) Video Link - Sign Language interpreter 
  • translation services
  • inductions loops
  • toilet facilities (including disabled toilets and baby changing)
  • provision of information / correspondence in appropriate alternative formats (e.g. large print, Braille, coloured paper etc)
  • extension of time limits (where that is permitted)
  • the choice to use email or telephone in preference to hard copy
  • use of plain English 
  • communication through a representative or intermediary
Do we regularly advise residents about our complaints process?

The answer is: Yes

Instructions on how to complain are included in our newsletters, the housing management customer services automated email response, and on the website.


3. Complaints team and process

Is there a complaint officer or equivalent in post?

The answer is: Yes

We have a Customer Experience team with a remit including complaints but extending to resident engagement.

Does the complaint officer have autonomy to resolve complaints?

The answer is: Yes

The Customer experience team coordinates complaints and have this autonomy.

Does the complaint officer have authority to compel engagement from other departments to resolve disputes?

The answer is: Yes

The Customer Experience team has this remit.

If there is a third stage to the complaint’s procedure are residents involved in the decision making?

The answer is: N/A

We went from a three to a two stage internal complaints procedure from 1st April 2021.  The escalation after stage 2 is to the Housing Ombudsman Service as necessary.  

Is any third stage optional for residents?

The answer is: N/A, as per the previous answer.

Does the final stage response set out residents’ right to refer the matter to the Housing Ombudsman Service?

The answer is: Yes

Do we keep a record of complaint correspondence including correspondence from the resident?

The answer is: Yes

According to the Council’s retention policy, complaints records are kept for six years from the date of resolution or conclusion, or in line with wider retention for tenancy related documents as appropriate.

At what stage are most complaints resolved?

Stage 1.


4. Communication

Are residents kept informed and updated during the complaints process?

The answer is: Yes

Residents receive a written acknowledgment of their complaint upon receipt, and a follow-up phone call from a Customer Experience Officer. As part of their investigation, the expectation is that the investigating team / officer will call the customer directly also. Any commitments made during a complaint response are logged and assigned to the relevant officers (generally the officer who carried out the investigation). The Performance team regularly produces reports on open commitments which are then reviewed by the Director of Housing Management as well as the Heads of Services.

Are residents informed of the landlord’s position and given a chance to respond and challenge any area of dispute before the final decision?

The answer is: Yes

In terms of Stage 1 and Stage 2 responses, it is not our standard practice to send a draft to the customer for comment prior to issuing a finalised version. Rather, we send out the response and the customer then has the option to escalate if they remain dissatisfied. However, as previously stated, the expectation is that the investigating officer will have spoken to the customer during the investigation process to ensure they are clear on the various aspects of the customer’s complaint and their desired outcomes.  

Are all complaints acknowledged and logged within five days?

The answer is: Yes

Are residents advised of how to escalate at the end of each stage?

The answer is: Yes

What proportion of complaints are resolved at stage one?

In 2021, 83% were closed at stage 1.

What proportion of complaints are resolved at stage two?

In 2021, 14% of complaints were resolved at Stage 2

What proportion of complaint responses are sent within Code timescales?
  • Stage one
  • Stage one (with extension)

Our target for stage one complaints changed from April to fall in line with the code of guidance.  From April onwards 90.9% of stage one responses were sent on time, reducing to 82.8% when excluding extensions granted.

  • Stage two
  • Stage two (with extension)

Our target for stage two complaint changed from April to fall in line with the code of guidance.  From April onwards 79.8% of stage 1 responses were sent on time, reducing to 73.8% when excluding extensions.

Where timescales have been extended did we have good reason?

The answer is: Yes

Where timescales have been extended did we keep the resident informed?

The answer is: Yes

What proportion of complaints do we resolve to residents’ satisfaction?

Two complaints satisfaction surveys were completed in 2021.  The satisfaction with the outcome of the complaint was 34.1% (January) and 34.7% (September).  


5. Cooperation with Housing Ombudsman Service

Were all requests for evidence responded to within 15 days?

Ombudsman’s deadlines vary pending on the case; on occasions we needed extensions, specifically on a large volume of referrals received in a very short period in December 2021. The majority of the cases that we receive are informal enquiries ( such as: OMB asking us where the resident currently is in our complaints process, requests to contact the resident about issues that have never even been subject to our formal complaints process,  requests to escalate complaints to the next stage).

Where the timescale was extended did we keep the Ombudsman informed?

The answer is: Yes

Yes, we do inform the Corporate Complaints team about extensions (as they are the ones who communicate with the Ombudsman directly). 


6. Fairness in complaint handling

Are residents able to complain via a representative throughout?

The answer is: Yes

If advice was given, was this accurate and easy to understand?

The answer is: Yes

How many cases did we refuse to escalate?

In general, we have no mechanism of recording the numbers of cases which we refused to escalate. However, where we believe the customer’s desired outcome can be achieved without forcing them to go through the formalised Stage 2 process and waiting even longer for a response, we may look to resolve the matter as a Stage 1 follow up so as to expedite the process, as part of our commitment to putting the customer first, and focusing on achieving good outcomes, rather than focusing on process at the expense of people’. 

What was the reason for the refusal?

As above.

Did we explain our decision to the resident?

The answer is: Yes


7. Outcomes and remedies

Where something has gone wrong, are we taking appropriate steps to put things right?

The answer is: Yes

The Council has mechanisms in place to ensure that the information we receive from complaints is fed into improving services for our customers. Users of the complaints process may be surveyed for their views on the handling and outcome of their complaint, to enable the Council to monitor customer satisfaction with the process and identify any improvements. We also have a compensation policy. Finally, we hold regular (weekly) review meetings on all complaints which are on Stage 2, and we have introduced estates reviews meetings to ensure we understand the problems arising on our estates and that we take remedial action.


8. Continuous learning and improvement

What improvements have we made as a result of learning from complaints?

We introduced a flag on our CRM system to show when a property has been adapted – this helps reduce any mistakes that might be made during the allocation process of a property. 
We now conduct independent estates inspections, to ensure problems are proactively dealt with.

We have introduced a routine review of complaints to identify lessons learned, which are reported to our senior management team.  Work required is prioritised and mapped against existing improvement activity .

We have reviewed and updated our leak investigation process (for example, when forced entry should be carried out where our right of access has been refused by the tenant or leaseholder).

We have used complaints (as well as wider customer contact data within our CRM system) as a trigger to analyse trend data on an estate by estate basis.  This has enabled us to identify issues impacting on particular estates or blocks and thereby better inform our planned maintenance and capital programme works. 

How do we share these lessons with residents?

We have produced a short summary of our larger lessons learned report, for distribution to Residents Associations via our Resident Engagement Team. 

How do we share these lessons with the board/governing body?

The Director of Housing Management chairs a weekly meeting reviewing lessons learnt as well as identifying and addressing any trends identified.

How do we share these lessons in the Annual Report?

We did not detail lessons learnt in our annual report for 2019/20 but we will include lessons for the year 2020/21.  

Has the Code made a difference to how we respond to complaints?

The answer is: Yes

What changes have we made?

We have amended our response timescales to ensure we are in line with the code. 

We continue to hold regular meetings (weekly or fortnightly) between the Customer Experience Team and operational teams to fully investigate open complaints and enquiries with potential to become complaints. This enables us to identify potential lessons at an early stage without needing to wait for the full complaint investigation to be concluded. 
We have carried out a thorough review of Stage 1 and Stage 2 complaints received over the past year to identify and collate the lessons learned, and are in the process of implementing the changes identified. 

The Customer Experience Team continues to call every complainant after they have lodged a complaint, and work with the investigating teams to ensure their lead investigating officers also make such calls to the complainants as a matter of course.  The complaint response templates have been revised to make reference to such a phone call having taken place, to prompt the lead investigating officer to do so. 

The Customer Experience Team delivers regular training to new starters (and existing officers, where necessary) on investigating complaints, to ensure every officer is familiar with the process and understands the Council’s expectations in terms of quality of investigation and response (this includes going through examples of good and bad responses, lessons learned from previous complaints etc). 

We have worked to incorporate the lessons learned from the past year of complaints into our currently ongoing repairs improvement programme. 

Our Customer Experience Team have created a Complaints Maturity Model with our corporate team, which has since been fully adopted. This is a framework agreed by managers from each service and is used to assess complaints performance across departments over four areas (process, investigation, outcome and lessons learned), with the aim of better enabling us to share best practice across departments and promote a culture of continuous improvement across the Council as a whole. 

Last updated: 11 April 2022