The government has revealed more details about how the new Private Rented Sector Ombudsman Service will work in practice.
Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe, chair of the Property Ombudsman (which covers letting agents), quizzed Housing Minister Baroness Scott of Bybrook during a House of Lords debate about what progress it had made in establishing the new service.
Baroness Bybrook said it hoped to appoint a provider to deliver through the Housing Ombudsman service (which provides social housing redress) although no final decision had been made.
She explained: “We envisage that, where a complaint covers both landlords and letting agents, the separate schemes will work together to triage the complaint effectively and, if necessary, have a joint investigation. Importantly, we want to make sure that, where it is not clear which scheme a tenant should complain to, there is no wrong access point. We will work together to make sure that the tenant gets the service that they require.”
Like the Housing Ombudsman which costs £5.75 per unit, it will be a landlord membership scheme. Baroness Bybrook confirmed that it could expel a landlord unless they dealt with their obligations and then re-joined. They would be liable for civil and, in the worst cases, legal penalties if they continued to operate without membership.
She said it aimed to have the scheme up and running as soon as possible after the Bill receives Royal Assent and agreed it would need “a lot of communication”. She added: “We have already had Make Things Right in the social rented sector, which has increased people’s awareness of the scheme to 63% from below 55%. We will continue that campaign. 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.”