Residents are warned to beware of disreputable firms who are actively targeting tenants of social housing associations and encouraging them to make disrepair claims by promising large sums in compensation.
Some firms can pledge ‘no win no fee’ deals and urge tenants to agree to make unnecessary legal claims which can fail, leaving tenants having to pay expensive court costs. Even if claims are successful, tenants can be left with a very small amount of money after huge legal bills are deducted, or the compensation can even be less than the legal bills owed, so residents can end up in debt.
Once a tenant has signed up to a ‘no win no fee’ deal, they have found it very difficult to extract themselves from it without a claim being made against them by the firm they initially found helpful and supportive.
A better way
If you have already reported a repair or defect and are unhappy it has not been dealt with properly, housing associations like Plymouth Community Homes offer a clear and accessible complaints process, in line with the Social Housing White Paper pledge to help tenants of social housing associations feel empowered to make complaints when they need to.
PCH is a member of the Housing Ombudsman Service, an independent body which reviews complaints when they can’t be resolved, and the Ombudsman can resolve disputes without the need for tenants to go to court.
The service is free, independent and impartial for all tenants and landlords.
PCH is always working to improve services and welcomes complaints, as they can help us review the way we work and make changes when they are needed.
Residents are urged to use the complaints process in the first instance therefore, with the option to escalate an issue to the Ombudsman if it cannot be resolved, rather than risk potentially expensive court costs.
Mike Williams, Head of Asset Management at PCH, said: “Some disreputable firms are actively trying to make a profit by misleading tenants to take up what they allege are ‘no win no fee’ cases. There’s no such thing as ‘no fee’ when you look into it – and there are many cases reported nationally of tenants being left with huge debts after a stressful court action because they fell victim to false promises like this.
“We’re concerned our tenants could be encouraged by unscrupulous firms to launch legal actions which could very likely not lead to any compensation at all, and actually risk tenants having to pay large court fees and legal bills instead. Even if a case was successful, the court fees would not be covered by the ‘no win no fee’ pledge and tenants could see most of their compensation lost to bills.
“We’re not trying to stop our tenants making complaints – we actually welcome them as they can help us to improve our services – but tenants should realise that the best option is to first give PCH a chance to make things right, by reporting a defect or a repair through our channels, and then by making a complaint if something has gone wrong, and to trust in the process that is there.”
Make court action the last resort
Citizens Advice suggests court action against a landlord should be a “last resort” in matters of disrepair issues, warning it can be costly and time consuming for tenants.
The service also suggests contacting your landlord first and following their complaints process, as a court might reject your claim otherwise.
How to make a complaint at PCH
The complaints process at PCH is detailed on our website here.
You can make a complaint through:
- A contact form on our website
- The MyPCH resident portal
- Social media message
- Calling us on 0808 230 6500
- In person at our offices in Plumer House or in the PCH city centre shop
- By writing to us at Plumer House, Tailyour Road, Crownhill, Plymouth PL6 5DH
A supervisor will carry out investigations and if your complaint can’t be resolved quickly, it progresses to the next stage, with a Senior Manager working with a PCH Director to review your complaint and provide a response.
If this doesn’t resolve the issue, you would be invited to a review meeting involving staff and a Board member, and a full response is provided.
Then there is an option to send the complaint to the Housing Ombudsman for an independent review if you remain unhappy.
PCH considers compensation for customers where there has been loss or damage, considered on the merit of the claim, and where there is evidence to support a compensation claim.