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Complaints

If you are unhappy with the service you have received, we want to know.

We are committed to providing you with a high-quality service. Your feedback helps us to better understand how we are performing and where we need to improve.

Although we will always seek to follow this policy when dealing with complaints, we reserve the right to use discretion when applying the policy and may deal with a complaint differently where individual circumstances merit it. In these circumstances, any discretion will be applied fairly and appropriately, and the customer will be informed of any departure from this policy.

As part of our ongoing compliance with the Housing Ombudsman Code of Practice, and our commitment to resolving complaints and learning from them we have appointed two key people to oversee what we do.

The first, Nicki Clark, is a member of North Stars Board. She has been appointed as North Stars Member Responsible for Complaints. Nicki has lead responsibility   for supporting a positive complaint handling culture. She will also ensure that the Board  receives regular information on complaints that provides insight on North Star’s performance on complaint handling

The second is Carole Richardson. Carole is North Star’s Executive Director for Customers. She is accountable for complaint handling. She assesses any themes or trends to identify potential systemic issues, serious risks, or policies and procedures that require revision.

Our Principles

During our complaints process, we are committed to the following:

  • We believe our customers when they say a service has failed.
  • We think that people are more important than processes.
  • We build and maintain relationships with contractors as this helps with resolving complaints.
  • We ask what remedy the customer is seeking at first point of contact.
  • We ensure whoever receives a complaint has responsibility for resolving the issue or handover to a person who can.
  • We ensure our Customers Service Team has access to all the tools necessary to resolve complaints at the first point of contact.
  • We resolve the issue to the customer’s satisfaction.
  • We aim to resolve any issues at first point of contact.
  • We communicate and update customers using their preferred method and personalise how we respond to customers.
  • We will use the learning from complaints to improve services.
  • We write any formal responses using clear, easy to understand language.
  • We will have a collaborative and co-operative approach towards resolving complaints, working with colleagues across teams and departments.
  • We will take collective responsibility for any shortfalls identified through complaints, rather than blaming others.
  • We will act within the professional standards for engaging with complaints as set by any relevant professional body.

What is a complaint?

A complaint is defined as an expression of dissatisfaction, however made about the standard of service, actions or lack of action by the organisation, its own staff or those acting on our behalf, affecting an individual, resident or group of residents.

A customer does not have to use the word “complaint” in order for it to be treated as such.

We will ensure we respond quickly to complaints and make improvements where required.

All complaints will be monitored to ensure that we are being fair and transparent, and we learn from them.

The Housing Ombudsman can be contacted for advice and information at any point during the complaint process.

Service Requests

When a customer informs us that they are not happy about something, we will consider if this is something that we can put right quickly, without needing to go through our formal complaint’s procedure. These are called service requests. We will seek to resolve any service requests within three working days.

The customer will be asked if they are satisfied with the actions taken to resolve the service request and if the customer remains unhappy, they can continue through our complaint’s procedure.

Examples of this can include resolving an issue about a repair or an appointment.

How to make a complaint

We want to make it as easy as possible to make a complaint about our services and they can be made in any of the following ways.

  • In person
  • In writing
  • By telephone
  • By email on complaints@northstarhg.co.uk
  • Via our website, northstarhg.co.uk – click here
  • Through another person, perhaps an advocate, social worker, solicitor, etc.
  • Through comments made on surveys
  • Through comments on social media such as Facebook, Twitter etc.

We will deal with anonymous complaints in the same way.

We have a simple complaints process involving just two stages.

Once we have received your complaint, we will write to you within two working days providing you with details of who will be looking into the complaint and when you should receive a response by.

Stage One

A stage one complaint will be dealt with by a manager who will contact you and discuss how the complaint can be resolved.

We aim to provide a full written response within 10 working days.

If additional complaints are raised during the investigation, we will incorporate these into the stage one response if they are relevant, and the stage one response has not been issued. Where the additional complaints are not relevant, or the stage one response has been issued, or it would unreasonably delay the response, the complaint will be recorded as a new complaint.

We will keep the customer updated and respond within the timescales set out in our policy. If we are unable to resolve the complaint in these timeframes, we will contact the customer to set out what we are intending to do to resolve the complaint, and by when with new timescales for response.

This will be no more than 10 days. We will seek agreement of the customer for this. If the customer is not in agreement with this, we will close the complaint and issue our findings in writing. We will provide details on how the complaint can be escalated to stage two of our complaints policy. Details of the Housing Ombudsman will also be provided.

Stage Two

If you are not happy with the outcome of stage one, you can ask for a review on how the complaint has been handled. At stage two it will be dealt with by a senior manager or Director who will endeavour to resolve the complaint in 10 working days.

We aim to provide a full response within 10 working days. We recognise that some reviews may require a more in-depth investigation. If we are unable to respond within 10 working days, we will contact the customer to advise when we expect to be able to respond to the request for review. This will be for no more than 10 working days unless there is a good reason will be explained to the customer.

Where an agreement over an extension period cannot be reached, we will provide the customer with the Housing Ombudsman contact details.

We will write to the customer to issue our findings and outcome of the review.

Closing Complaints

A complaint will be considered closed when we have written to the customer providing details on what we have done or propose to do to resolve the complaint.

When writing to confirm a complaint is closed, we will clarify:

  • The complaint stage.
  • The complaint definition.
  • Outcome of our investigation.
  • Reasons for any decision including any relevant policy, law, and good practice.
  • Details of any remedy/compensation to put things right.
  • Details of any outstanding outcomes
  • Details of how to escalate to the Housing Ombudsman if customer remains dissatisfied.

We will address all points raised in the complaint and provide clear reasons for any decisions.

Exclusions

A complaint will be accepted unless there is a valid reason not to do so. There are some specific instances when we won’t accept a complaint, but each case will be considered on its own merits. Some examples include:

  • When the service failure or incident occurred over 12 months from the complaint unless it is a safeguarding or health and safety issue.
  • When repeated complaints are made about the same or related matters that we have already addressed through the complaint procedure.
  • Where legal action is being taken against North Star related to the complaint. This is defined as details of the claim, such as the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim, having been filed at court.
  • A complaint regarding a breach of tenancy, such as anti-social behaviour, will not be regarded as a complaint unless the complaint is about the handling of the situation.
  • When it is referring to a service not provided by North Star.

If we decide not to accept the complaint, we will write and explain why we are not accepting the complaint, and in our response, inform the complainant that they have the right to challenge the decision via the Housing Ombudsman.

Self-Assessment

North Star is committed to being compliant with the Housing Ombudsman Complaint Handling Code. The purpose of this self-assessment is to identify where we are compliant and identify any areas where we can make improvements.

The self assessment can be found below along with the report to North Stars Board and the minutes of Boards consideration and approval of the self assessment.

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