Complaint Handling Procedure

York Housing Association aims to provide an excellent service to all its customers and to treat all feedback as a learning opportunity to improve services. We recognise that sometimes things will go wrong and we aim to resolve any complaint promptly and effectively learning from complaints to improve service delivery. This procedure has been put together to help provide guidance for staff when dealing with complaints to ensure we deliver a consistently high standard of service, an individual and personal response, and offer a fair resolution.


We define a complaint as feedback received when someone is dissatisfied with an action or lack of action, or about the standard of a service. For example, when we may have:


  • Done something wrong or below standard.

  • Not done something we should have done.

  • Not delivered a service within the time we promised.

  • Not followed the correct policy or procedure.


Complaints can be received:


  • By telephone.

  • By Post

  • In person.

  • By Email

  • Through the website

1. Receiving a Complaint

When a customer makes a complaint the staff member receiving it must notify the Corporate Resources Manager (CRM) within 1 working day.


If a complaint is made verbally to you, in person or on the phone, record all the information on the Complains Log and give this to the CRM.  This is a crucial part of the process so we have a clear idea of what the complaint is about. 


The CRM is responsible for logging all complaints on the Complaint Tracker, and allocating a unique reference number to be used in all correspondence. This number is made up of the year eh 2015/16  corresponding number on the tracker followed by the initials of who is investigating eg 2015/16/5/JB


The CRM will assign the complaint to the appropriate member of staff and give them all the information that has been received so far.  They CRM will also write to the complainant using the standard letter, acknowledging the complaint, detailing the unique reference number, and advising who will be investigating the complaint.


A complaint about service delivery will be assigned to the frontline member of staff; any complaint about a member of staff should be assigned directly to their line manager.


All staff will receive initial and refresher training on complaint handling.

2. Investigating the Complaint

Wherever possible the investigating officer should arrange to visit the complainant to gather details of the complaint. Where this is not possible telephone contact should be made. In all instances a thorough investigation should be carried out and detailed notes prepared.


Key points to remember are –


  • ensure that we have full details of the complaint,

  • find out what outcome the customer would like to see,

  • ensure that the customer is aware of their rights and responsibilities and has realistic expectations of the possible outcome,

  • identify any support needs,

  • explain how the process will work,

  • check their preferred method of contact,

  • focus on, wherever possible, finding a satisfactory resolution.


Our aim is to provide a simple, straight forward, personal, and fair service. It is important to make timely decisions and explain these fully to the customer to ensure a satisfactory resolution.  If you are unsure at any stage about any decisions or next steps please make sure you discuss this with your line manager.


Throughout the process investigating staff must complete and update the Complaint Tracker. The CRM will monitor the Complaint Tracker and ensure that timescales are being met, and the tracker is being updated and completed.  It is very important that the progress is fully documented and recorded using the Complaints Summary Sheet because; if the complaint goes to review these notes will be referred to by the review panel.


The complaints policy details time scales for responses as five working days to acknowledge receipt of a complaint and 15 working days from the acknowledgement letter to provide a full written response.  The timescale of 15 days gives an opportunity to carry out a thorough investigation; however, where the matter is straightforward you should aim to provide the full written response in the shortest possible time.


In exceptional circumstances, the investigation may take longer than the agreed timescales in which case we should keep the customer informed and explain why we cannot meet the timescales and inform them of a date that they can expect a full response.


If the investigating officer finds that the complaint is in relation to a matter of Serious Detriment then they must immediately report the matter to the Head of Property and Maintenance. Serious Detriment is where there is a risk to health and safety and will include, but is not limited to;


  • Breaches of gas safety legislation

  • Failure to adhere to legislative requirements in relation to fire safety, management of asbestos or risk of legionella

  • Any health and safety issue which has resulted, or could have resulted, in personal injury


The Head of Property and Maintenance will immediately alert the executive team that they are carrying out a potential serious detriment investigation and must conclude their investigation within three working days. The Head of Property and Maintenance will produce a written report of their findings to the executive team within five working days of the commencement of their investigation.  


If a staff member is unsure whether a matter falls into the category of Serious Detriment then they should take advice from a member of the leadership team.

3. Responding to the Complaint

The findings and outcome of the investigation must be discussed with your line manager before a full response is sent using the Complaint Standard Response letter within 15 days from receipt of the complaint.  Managers are responsible for reviewing the response before it is sent out and should therefore countersign the copy letter.


The standard response letter is intended as a guide and will require tailoring to meet the individual circumstances.  Appendix 1of this procedure contains guidance to support staff when responding to a complaint with some helpful phrases that you can use.


Investigating staff should complete the Complaint Tracker with the outcome and any learning that has come from the investigation.  Where the investigation has led to a change in policy or procedure then the relevant manager is responsible for ensuring that these are updated and approved by SMT or Board as appropriate.


Sometimes we may need to offer compensation and in these cases we should ensure that we are following the Compensation and Discretionary Payments Policy.   All compensation payments must be discussed with and signed off by the Housing Services Manager.


A copy of the Complaint Summary Sheet, any letters, emails and relevant correspondence must be given to the CRM who will keep them in the Complaints Folder for reference.


A file note should be made in a tenants file that they have made a complaint, including the reference number and the outcome.

4. Request for a Review

If the customer does not agree with the response they should be advised that they can ask for the complaint to be reviewed explaining why they feel the case is unresolved.


If the customer requests a review the person who receives this must notify the Corporate Resources Manager (CRM) within 1 working day.


The CRM will notify the Operations Director (OD) that a review has been requested and pass copies of all correspondence (retaining the originals on the complaint file) to the OD.  The OD will liaise with SMT to set up a panel of one SMT member and two Board members.  The OD will be responsible for ensuring that the complainant receives an acknowledgement within 5 working days, along with an invite to attend the review meeting.


The review meeting should take place within 10 working days of the request being received.


A full written response should be sent out within 15 working days of the review meeting.


All Board members who are likely to be involved in a review panel must have undertaken appropriate training.

5. Implementing learning from complaints

Complaints are a useful learning tool and as such it is important that we share the outcome of complaints with staff, board and tenants.


The CRM is responsible for producing a quarterly report detailing;


  • the number and type of complaints

  • whether timescales were met

  • outcomes (which could include explanation, apology, changes to policies and procedures and any details of compensation paid)


Leadership team and Managers are responsible for monitoring the detail of complaints, reviewing outcomes and agreeing further actions at Leadership team meetings.


Where an outcome of a complaint leads to a change to any policies, procedures and working practice the relevant documents should be immediately updated.  Where Board or Executive team approval is required to policy changes this should be flagged up at Leadership team and approval sought at the next opportunity (Board or Executive team meeting).  Changes to policies and procedures should be notified to all staff and managers are responsible for ensuring appropriate training.


Outcomes and learning from complaints should be reported annually as follows;


  • To Board through annual complaints report

  • To tenants through the Tenant Newsletter


The Complaints Policy, Complaints Handling Procedure and the Compensation and Discretionary Payments Policy are held on the YHA Intranet


Documents to be used in the Complaints Handling Procedure are in the following folder –



If you need help or advice, talk to your housing officer

Call 01904 636061