January 2022

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Learning from Complaints

Putting customers first

In October 2020, following consultation with 33 involved customers, we launched a new more ‘customer focused’ Complaints Policy.

The new policy was in response to the new Housing Ombudsman Code released  in July 2020 and the Government White Paper released in November 2020 entitled ‘The Charter for Social Housing Residents’, which outlined their short- and long-term plans for social housing, including the commitment to ‘To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly’.

The new policy puts the customer first and that we welcome complaints as a chance to put things right and genuinely address your needs and help to strengthen relationships.

Learning from complaints

Complaints are important feedback and a great tool to improve services.  Here is how your complaints have improved our service:

Poor Experience: Pest Control / Rodent infestation 

The problem:

Customer reported a delay in response and lack of ownership after reporting a rat infestation in their property.

What we learned:

A failing in this case was due to a split in responsibilities between two different teams. 


What we did:

Changed the process to avoid delays in future cases and preventative action taken to prevent the issue occurring.

Moved the whole process and budget under a single team, and it now sits with Assets.

A new pest control ‘work type’ has been added to our system, to enable us to track cases, with a 48-hour response timescale has been agreed.

Developed stronger partnerships with Local Authority pest control services, to ensure a speedier and more collaborative response for the customer.

Added a new check for rodent ingress points to our stock condition surveys, to prevent future infestation of properties.

Additional information will be added to the new website and Torus Customer Hub scripts were updated to  ensure customer can easily access information and support.

Sales process

The problem:

A potential new home buyer felt the process was unfair to those with an existing property to sell.

What we did:

Following the complaint, we amended the process as follows:

Customer who have a property to sell but do not have a sale agreed in place will be allowed by make a reservation. They will be given the same timescales as First Time Buyers which is four weeks to provide the required documentation to proceed to legal instruction.

If after four  weeks the customer is not in a position to provide a sale agreed, Sales will review whether or not we are in a position to extend the reservation for a further four weeks. This will be addressed on a case by case basis and will mostly be led by the demand for the particular plot in question.

For off plan sales, a customer who has a property to sell will be allowed to place an early bird reservation independent of them securing a sale agreed.  They will be advised that they must put their property on the market 12 weeks prior to handover to give them enough time to market their property and secure a sale agreed. We aim to be in a position to achieve back to back completions as close to handover as possible.

Again, if the customer cannot achieve a sale agreed within the set timescales, the reservation period may be extended at our discretion depending on demand for the plot in question.

Customer service contact number 

The problem:

The cost to contact us at busier times.

What we did:

In July 2020, we aligned our customer service team, creating the Torus Customer Hub, introducing a freephone number for all customers.

A call back facility was also introduced so that customer didn’t need to wait for an available operative.

Communication – Development Team 

The problem:

A Housing Ombudsman case highlighted a case of communication breakdowns when members of staff involved in managing the case left the organisation, this was due to poor record keeping on a complaint file.


What we did:

To learn from this and improve the customers experience a change in process was introduced:

One person was given responsibility to maintain oversight of all complaints cases and ensure they are assigned to the correct person for investigation.

A dedicated email address was set up for all incoming correspondence rather than relying on individual emails to prevent communication breakdown when staff are absent or leave the business.


ASB case management 

The problem:

An increase in ASB cases escalating through the complaint’s procedure and to the Housing Ombudsman.

What we learned:

In early 2021 Torus reviewed the volume of ASB cases and found trends in the escalated  complaints related to the quality of responses.

The conclusion was in relation to the handling of the different types of ASB, statutory (regulated by the law) and non-statutory ASB (not covered by the law) and that non-statutory ASB would be more effectively handled by a specialist Safer Estates Team rather than by generic Housing Officers.

What we did:

The teams have been restructured alongside the introduction of a new housing management system. The intended date for completion of both projects is Autumn 2021.

The Safer Estates Team has increased resource and improved line-management oversight and support.

Safer Estates Compliance Officers will deal with cases and training of the new officers will emphasise the importance of effective interventions including the use of informal agreements, acceptable behaviour contracts and mediation.

In response to the Social Housing White Paper, we are undertaking a project to respond to this issue, targeting dissatisfaction, delving deeper into the causes and create improvement actions.

Delays to a repair due to access to information on non-standard fittings 

The problem:

A case which escalated to the Housing Ombudsman identified that delays had occurred in the repairs process, causing inconvenience to the customer. 

What we learned:

The root cause of the delay was lack of accessible information on the product fitted which needed to be repaired, this led to several visits to identify the problems and delays in sourcing parts.  It was recognised that delays could have been reduced if there was access to information to the faulty product at the point the repairs was reported. 


What we did:

 An action plan was agreed to improve quality of information held about non-standard fittings.