Case Study 16: Transfer application and complaint handling

Mr R applied for a transfer with a Housing Co-operative (the Co-op) he was already a member of in April 2012. The Co-op arranged to meet Mr R at his home to discuss his application, and then informed him verbally that the flat had been allocated to someone else as it was not able to allocate a larger property to a single person. This approach did not follow the Coop’s procedure which stated that it would also send an application form and arrange for an interview with an allocations committee.

Mr R then submitted a complaint that he had only received a verbal decision and that the allocations procedure had not been followed. The Co-op responded to the complaint with a complaint report, which included clear findings and explained it did not feel a meeting necessary. This went against its complaints procedure which stated the report’s purpose was to only provide background for a complaint meeting. The report explained regardless of the process followed the transfer application would not have been successful as Mr R was adequately housed in his current flat. This was the first written explanation given to Mr R as to why his application was unsuccessful.

Mr R repeated his request for a complaint meeting which the landlord agreed to. Mr R asked that the chair of the Co-op not be part of the meeting given their previous involvement, and the Chair agreed. However the other members of the meeting insisted that the Chair be part of the meeting. This was not a fair way to handle the complaint as there was no specific need for the Chair to be at the meeting and therefore it was unnecessarily antagonistic, damaging the chance of a successful resolution.

The committee upheld Mr R’s complaint that it had not followed its allocation procedure. It also explained that although the incorrect procedure had been followed, the same approach had been taken with all applicants therefore the actual decision was fair and would not have changed. Mr R accepted that the flat was more suitable for the other family.

After investigating the case we found that the landlord had responded to Mr R’s complaint about the allocation procedure fairly by upholding it and explaining the policy would now be reviewed. It had also helpfully explained that despite this failure nothing further needed putting right as the actual decision would have remained the same.

However we did find that the landlord had failed to handle the complaint correctly. It did not follow its procedure when issuing findings in its report, and damaged the relationship with Mr R by insisting on the Chair’s attendance. It also delayed in sending its final written response, therefore we ordered that it pay £50 to acknowledge the failure to follow this procedure, and recommended that the Coop review the procedure so that it could learn from the complaint.