Right now, millions of people in the UK have household complaints from gas leaks to asbestos contamination, and don't know how to get them seen to. Half of us don't even know that help exists or how to get it. Of those who do, about 70% of them find the system overly complicated and confusing to use.

According to Ombudsman Services (OS), we're about due for a severe shake-up in the way complaints are handled in the housing industry. The service is designed to, in their own words, “provide an affordable path to justice” for complaints about businesses and other organisations.

What are the issues?

OS has been pooling opinions on complaints procedures for common problems like faults in new-build properties and dodgy landlords. They've talked to homeowners, landlords and renters, along with the industry itself, and it's clear that a change is needed. That's a popular opinion, too, with about 9 in 10 people saying a single housing ombudsman would be better than the current system. As things stand, there are several separate bodies to handle different kinds of problem, and that's tripping people up.

In some cases, people are actually too afraid to speak up when problems arise. No one wants to be branded as a troublemaker by their landlord, after all. Fear of eviction and getting a bad reputation are major reasons why some people put up with issues rather than getting them sorted. At the end of the day, that's good for no one.

What is the Government doing?

The government's been full of talk about “bold options” to get to grips with housing complaints. Combining all the various bodies into a single ombudsman could certainly go some way toward that. After all, even OS themselves have been talking about getting out of housing, calling the current system “a broken solution to a broken market”. As it turns out, there are decent signs that a single housing ombudsman service could work. The energy sector service deals with over 40,000 complaints a year, and works with businesses to fix issues before they become serious or widespread.

What can you do now?

For the moment, of course, this is all just talk – but it's definitely worth listening to. Until a new system is set in place, we're still stuck with the messy existing version. Sometimes that's going to mean looking closely at the agreement you've got with your landlord. Sometimes it'll mean taking your complaint to a redress scheme or local councillor. In all cases, you've got to know exactly what your rights are and how to use them. With 1 in 8 private renters on the receiving end of illegal tactics from landlords, it really does pay to know where you stand.

If you need to get in contact with the Housing Ombudsman, or find out more about how they can help you, visit the Housing Ombudsman website.

If you're a private renter you'll need to file a tax return.  RIFT can do this for you, get in touch with us to find out more.