Why complaints from tenants must be a driver for change

Posted: 07/10/2021

Martyn Hague, director of neighbourhoods at ForHousing explains what has sparked its new complaints commitment and why it hopes that more tenants will reach out to complain.

Do you want your tenants to complain? It might sound trite initially, but at ForHousing we really do want our tenants to express their dissatisfaction to us directly.

Our promise is to listen and to act.

We’ve made some big changes to how we handle and respond to complaints – but these were not about re-writing policies and procedures.

As a progressive landlord which is committed to improving lives and making more things possible for more people, we wanted everyone in our organisation to view complaints as an opportunity to improve. To make lives better.

When someone is dissatisfied and shares this with us, we have been given golden intelligence which can help us to improve. Ultimately, this is about our organisational culture and our genuine care for tenants and their lives.

It is our belief that lives don’t improve by chance, they improve by change. This is why we scrapped our historic ‘get it sorted’ in five days rule.

Instead, we committed to agreeing how we’ll put things right with someone and when we’ll do it within two days of them sharing a problem.

This was a big shift for our colleagues, especially those on the frontline. But if we have learned anything over recent times, it is that people are never going to feel heard and validated if they’re repeating the same problems to different people time and again. It’s quite the opposite.

Now, tenants only deal with a single person until we’ve resolved their problem, or they decide they want to escalate it.

Our new focus is what we’re referring to both internally and with tenants as the four Rs. Yes, we’ve tried to make it memorable, but this is much more than a marketing exercise for us.

Our promise to tenants is that we will;

  • offer and deliver a remedy
  • recognise the impact
  • provide reassurance
  • award recompensation, if appropriate

Whilst reviewing how we deal with complaints was already a priority for us, we are also holding ourselves accountable as part of the wider housing association sector.

Both the social housing regulator and the Housing Ombudsman have recently called on all housing associations to do better when it comes to listening to and acting on the messages tenants are giving us.

Never again must we live to see another Grenfell Tower tragedy. And this was clear in the government’s Social Housing White Paper which proposes moving back to a proactive consumer regulation scheme, which is reportedly in the early stages of being designed.

We’ve always taken a proactive approach. Rather than wait for legislation, we’ve taken a look at how we operate and taken action to ensure we continue to deliver high quality services and ensure that tenants are listened to and taken seriously.

Our ethos of improving lives runs through everything we do at ForHousing, so it is paramount that tenants can reach us and tell us when this isn’t the case for them.

We’ve supported and prepared colleagues so they feel confident with the changes. If colleagues feel empowered and part of the process, tenants will feel it too and will receive a consistent service from ForHousing.

As we spread the word that we are making it easier for people to complain we can expect to see an increase in the number of complaints. But we want this – we won’t apologies if complaints go up. We see this as opportunity.

It all starts with acceptance, which is not easy and often uncomfortable. But that isn’t a reason to avoid it.

At ForHousing we accept that we can always do better and helping tenants so they can ultimately helps us too. Listening and acting on what they say will help us continually improve and get better together.

Also in this section