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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

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    The designated person: Frequently asked questions

    From 1 April 2013, the Localism Act 2011 will put in place new arrangements for dealing with complaints by social tenants against their landlords. Councillors, tenant panels and MPs (“designated persons”) will have the opportunity to play a more active role in resolving complaints at the local level.

    “Designated persons” are defined in the Localism Act 2011 as an MP, a local councillor for the district in which a complainant’s home is located, or a designated tenant panel. A “designated tenant panel” is defined in the Localism Act as a group of tenants who have been “recognised” by a social landlord for the purpose of referring complaints to the Housing Ombudsman Service.

    The formal and only legally defined role of designated persons – as set out in the Localism Act – is to refer complaints from social housing tenants to the Ombudsman, but as these pages sets out, the effectiveness of the role is likely to be dependent on how they use wider powers of persuasion to help landlords and tenants resolve complaints locally.

    Designated persons may refer complaints to the Ombudsman at any time, although under the Ombudsman’s "scheme", they will generally only consider complaints after the landlord’s complaints procedure has been exhausted. A social housing tenant may refer their complaint directly to the Ombudsman (i.e. without a referral from a designated person) 8 weeks after the exhaustion of the landlord complaints procedure.

    Frequently asked questions

    The following webpages respond to questions posed by staff from Registered Provider landlords about the role, functions and operations of the “designated person”. Responses to the questions have been assembled by a stakeholder group consisting of representatives from the National Tenant Organisations , the Housing Ombudsman Service, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Chartered Institute of Housing, the National Housing Federation, the Local Government Association, and the National Federation of ALMOs.

    Alternatively, you can also download a complete set of questions and answers as a pdf.

    The questions were asked by landlord staff (we have retained the original wording of the questions) and so this document is primarily aimed at them, although we also hope that it will be useful to tenants and others who wish to understand how the designated person system operates. We intend this to be an organic document so please submit further questions about the designated person system to so that the stakeholder group can continue to provide further clarification.

    These frequently asked questions should be read in conjunction with Tenant panels: Options for accountability which gives further advice on how to set up effective tenant panels, and which is supported by all the landlord representative bodies. A forthcoming National Tenant Organisation document, due to be published in early 2013, will provide further support and information to designated persons. For further information on this project, please contact


    Complaints charter - sign up now

    CIH and HouseMark have published a complaints charter, setting out the outcomes that an effective complaints handling service should achieve. Organisations are encouraged to sign up to the charter on a voluntary basis and to self-assess their performance against it.

    By signing up, you are making a public commitment to welcome complaints, to take them seriously and to resolve and learn from them.

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