The Tenancy Deposit Scheme - which was hit by a serious fire at its Hemel Hempstead headquarters last evening - has appointed an external independent complaints reviewer, the first organisation of its kind in its industry to do so.
Over 30 fire fighters and six appliances attended the blaze yesterday, which destroyed several business premises in one large complex, including the Tenancy Deposit Scheme’s HQ. No one was hurt.
The blaze occurred just after TDS revealed its review proposal.
The role of the reviewer will be to look at the way TDS - one of three government-backed tenancy deposit schemes - has investigated complaints about its service in order to ensure that the process has been fair and transparent, and that the issues raised have been properly considered.
The reviewer will be Margaret Doyle who has over 20 years’ experience as a consultant in alternative dispute resolution and an independent mediator.
She is a Visiting Research Fellow with the UK Administrative Justice Institute at the University of Essex and has served as a non-executive director of several ombudsman schemes and is currently an independent member of the Ombudsman Association's Validation Committee.
In its 2018 Annual Review TDS reported that fewer than one per cent of tenancy deposits it protected ended in a dispute – a total of 14,430.
Of these 14,430 some 2.65 per cent resulted in a complaint being made about the adjudication decision, or the service received.
The average number of complaints received in 2018 was 32 per month, split between tenants (36 per cent), letting agents (23 per cent) and landlords (41 per cent).
Steve Harriott, TDS chief executive, says: “We take any complaints about our service very seriously and strive for the highest standards of complaints handling practice. If a complainant remains unhappy about TDS’s response to their formal complaint about an adjudication decision or other aspect of TDS’ customer service, they can escalate it to the Independent Complaints Reviewer.
“This role does not make Margaret a TDS staff member but someone who is appointed by the TDS Board to take an independent view of complaints and report annually to the Board on their work.
“As the only not-for-profit deposit protection scheme operating in England and Wales, TDS is committed to a programme of continuous investment in our systems, processes, people and service. Margaret’s appointment is part of that ongoing strategy and we are proud to have her on board.”
Doyle herself says: “Having an independent and impartial outside reviewer is a key process for demonstrating robust arrangements exist for ensuring that customer complaints are dealt with well and that complainants have the opportunity for review by someone outside of TDS. It is also designed to help TDS learn lessons from complaints and to help improve service provision.”
* The fire at the TDS headquarters yesterday, thought to have started in an air conditioning unit, has badly damaged the entire main building. All staff were evacuated, no data appears to have been lost, and service to customers is hoped to have be maintained in the coming days.