January 23, 2024 11:18 am

Insert Lead Generation
Nikka Sulton

The identity of the service running the upcoming Private Rental Sector Ombudsman scheme has been thrown into doubt once more. The Renters Reform Bill promised that a scheme would be mandatory for landlords to join, and would be set up when the Bill became law. Recently it was stated by the government that its chosen provider for the scheme would be the Housing Ombudsman – the current redress service for the social renting sector.

This led to disappointment among bodies such as The Property Ombudsman and the Property Redress Service, both of which currently operate schemes for lettings and sales agents. It was initially anticipated that these established entities might be considered for the new private rental scheme as well. However, the government’s stance has become less definitive regarding the leader of the private rental redress operation.

Baroness Scott of Bybrook, a junior housing minister in the House of Lords, addressed Peers, stating, “We announced our preference to deliver through the Housing Ombudsman service, which provides social housing redress. However, no final decision has been made, and our priority is choosing a provider that offers the high-quality and value-for-money service we require.” This uncertainty has left industry stakeholders eager to learn who will ultimately oversee the forthcoming Private Rental Sector Ombudsman scheme, adding an element of suspense to the future of the initiative.

In response to inquiries from Peers, Baroness Scott provided further insights into the government’s approach. She emphasized, “Firstly, we have undertaken extensive procurement and legal consultations, ensuring that our method in selecting the Ombudsman service aligns seamlessly with procurement regulations. It’s crucial to note that this process is still at a nascent stage, and we remain open to stakeholder engagement throughout the entire journey. For any noble Baroness or Lord interested in gaining more insights, my team and I are willing to arrange meetings as we navigate through this evolving process.”

“Secondly,” Baroness Scott added, “the question of how different property redress schemes interact is indeed intriguing. Our vision is that, when a complaint encompasses both landlords and letting agents, the individual schemes will collaborate effectively, streamlining the triage process and potentially conducting joint investigations where necessary. Ensuring clarity for tenants on which scheme to approach is paramount, and we are committed to preventing any confusion in access points. The objective is to create a system where tenants always find the right avenue for their concerns.”

She further addressed the matter, stating, “Lastly, we are aware of the importance of ongoing communication and collaboration with stakeholders. As we progress, the transparency of our decision-making process remains a priority. We believe in a consultative approach, and should any noble Baroness or Lord wish to engage more deeply, we welcome further discussions to ensure we craft an effective and robust system that serves the interests of tenants and upholds the standards we aim to achieve.”

Peers expressed reservations about potential overlaps in powers and responsibilities among the existing redress schemes and the forthcoming one mandated by the Renters Reform Bill.

Addressing queries on this matter, Baroness Scott clarified, “Regarding powers, the Bill specifies that the ombudsman will have enforcement authority to remove a landlord from organizational membership unless they address their obligations and subsequently rejoin. Violations may result in civil penalties, and in severe cases, legal consequences for landlords continuing to operate without membership. These robust powers will complement the enforcement capabilities of local authorities. In terms of funding, it will adopt a landlord membership model, akin to the Housing Ombudsman scheme, with membership set at £5.75 per unit.”

And she added that: “The ombudsman will complement local authority decisions and back them up … We intend to have the redress available as soon as we can after the Bill receives Royal Assent. We are working on that strongly at the moment, because it is an important service for tenants … As we move to a new ombudsman for the private rented sector, we will continue to have a strong campaign to ensure that all rented sector tenants understand their rights.”


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}