Lambeth Council is set to be investigated by the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) over its handling of complaints.  

Last year changes to the service introduced a new complaint handling code, which set out “clear expectations” for landlords on handling housing complaints. 

They included a new power to issue a complaint handling failure order, where a landlord is failing to comply with its membership obligations.  

According to a new report from the HOS, set to be published quarterly, the purpose of the orders is “to ensure that a landlord’s complaint handling process is accessible, consistent and enables the timely progression of complaints for residents”. 

The report, the first of its kind, covers orders issued between January 1 and March 2021.  

The orders may be issued if the HOS has taken “reasonable steps to seek engagement from a landlord”, but the resident remains unable to progress a complaint.  

They can also be issued where there is evidence of a “systemic issue” within a landlord’s complaint handling.  

“We will always provide a landlord with details of the issue and provide opportunities for the landlord to put things right before a complaint handling failure order is made,” according to the report.  

The HOS issued 10 complaint handling failure orders in the three months from January 1 – eight complied with the orders and two landlords did not, Lambeth Council and Enfield Council.  

Both were issued type 1 orders, which are “due to the landlord’s unreasonable delays in accepting or progressing a complaint through its process”.  

Lambeth Council was issued the order on February 4. 

“Following numerous requests for the landlord to respond to the complaint an order was issued. 

“This was not complied with and we decided the case had exhausted the landlord’s internal complaints procedure. The case is now in our formal remit awaiting investigation,” according to the report.  

Enfield Council was issued the order on February 18. The report stated: “The landlord responded on March 3, outside of the date for compliance, apologised for the delay and advised that it would respond to the complaint at stage one which it did the following day. 

“Due to non-compliance we decided that the complaint had exhausted the landlord’s complaints process and is now in our formal remit.” 

A spokesperson for Lambeth Council said: “We have noted that Ombudsman’s finding and will cooperate fully with any further investigation as we seek to rectify the issues raised.” 

Lambeth Green Councillor Scott Ainslie, deputy leader of the opposition, said he was “very disappointed” with the news.  

“Very disappointed that Lambeth is one of the two local authorities in London under investigation by the Housing Ombudsman for failing to comply with the watchdog’s new complaint-handling failure orders,” he tweeted.  

Green Cllr Pete Elliott said he was “less disappointed”.   

“I’m glad that the housing ombudsman has picked up on this. We don’t even have a housing strategy at the moment in Lambeth and therefore no vision to address the 3,000 families in temporary accommodation and hundreds of disrepair cases,” he said.