Contacting the Housing Ombudsman or SPSO


The Housing Ombudsman Service is an independent organisation which resolves disputes between tenants and social landlords in England.

The service is free, independent and impartial.

They regulate social landlords (housing associations and local authorities), and some private landlords and letting agents who have volunteered to be registered.

You can check if your landlord is included here.


In Scotland, Housing disputes are dealt with by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). It’s also a free, impartial service.

What can I complain about?


The Housing Ombudsman deals with complaints about how a landlord has responded to a problem that you’ve raised. They don’t deal with the problem itself, but can help you to resolve the dispute.

Some examples of why you might contact the Housing Ombudsman include:

  • Your landlord is refusing to deal with an issue.
  • Your landlord has dealt with an issue, but has done so in a way that still leaves problems.
  • Your landlord has treated you unfairly.
  • Your landlord has not abided by the terms of your tenancy agreement.


The SPSO will deal with issues about repairs, maintenance and eviction, but not rent or service charge increases, or individual members of staff.

When should I contact the Housing Ombudsman or SPSO?

It’s important to note that you can only contact the Housing Ombudsman when you have been through the landlord’s own complaints procedure and they have sent you a final response.

Similarly, in Scotland the SPSO will only consider complaints after you have gone through your RSL’s own complaints procedure. Once you’ve made a formal complaint to your RSL and either haven’t had an answer or feel that the problem has not been solved, you can ask SPSO to look at your complaint. However, it should be within twelve months of when the problem first started.

So, before contacting the Housing Ombudsman or SPSO, you must have:

  • Notified your landlord of the issue, and given them a chance to respond

You can find letters you can copy here.

  • Sent a follow-up letter to complain to your landlord that you did not receive a response, or the response did not solve the issue

Here’s how to send a follow-up letter.

  • Lodged a formal complaint through your landlord’s own complaints procedure
  • Received a formal notification from your landlord that the complaint has been dealt with and the matter is closed.

And you must NOT have started any legal proceedings.

At this point, the Housing Ombudsman also advises that you contact a ‘designated person‘. This could be your local councillor or an MP who can help try to resolve the problem.

Here’s information on how to contact your MP or councillors.

You don’t have to do this, but if you don’t, you must wait eight weeks from your landlord’s final response before you contact the Housing Ombudsman.

In Scotland, it’s different: there’s no need to get a designated person to help.

What will happen?

  • For straightforward cases, the Ombudsman will make suggestions to both you and your landlord on what steps to take to resolve the issue. This might include doing repairs, or offering compensation.
    Or they might find that the landlord has not done anything wrong.
  • If the issue does not fall within their area of work, they may refer you to a different organisation that can help.
  • For very complex cases, the Ombudsman may start an investigation.

Read this

The Housing Ombudsman publish case studies that show how they have resolved disputes previously. It’s good to read these to get a picture of some typical outcomes.

For Scotland, SPSO have a useful document on how to make a complaint.

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