The government has shed light on the operational framework of the forthcoming Private Rented Sector Ombudsman Service, aiming to enhance the dispute resolution process in the rental market.
During a recent discourse in the House of Lords, Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe, chair of the Property Ombudsman responsible for letting agents, sought clarity from Housing Minister Baroness Scott of Bybrook regarding the progression in setting up the new service. In response, Baroness Bybrook outlined the government’s intention to select a provider to manage the service in conjunction with the existing Housing Ombudsman service, known for addressing grievances in social housing. However, she noted that the decision-making process is still underway.
Baroness Bybrook elaborated on the operational dynamics, stating, “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.”
Mirroring the Housing Ombudsman’s structure, the new service will operate as a landlord membership scheme, with a cost of £5.75 per unit. Baroness Bybrook affirmed the scheme’s authority to exclude landlords who neglect their duties until they fulfill their obligations and opt to rejoin. Non-compliant landlords face the prospect of civil or even legal repercussions if they persist in operating outside the membership framework.
Baroness Bybrook emphasised the importance of effective communication in the implementation of the new service, stating the goal is to have the scheme operational promptly following the Royal Assent of the Bill. She remarked on the success of previous initiatives, saying, “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.”
This upcoming collaboration between the new Private Rented Sector Ombudsman Service and its partner scheme marks a significant step forward in bolstering the support structure for tenants, ensuring accessible and efficient resolution of disputes in the private rental sector.