Severe maladministration at housing association saw resident live with damp and mould for two years, Ombudsman investigation finds

A Housing Ombudsman investigation into a housing association's failure to respond to a resident's request to deal with damp and mould in her home has uncovered two instances of severe maladministration.

The resident had reported to her landlord, Inquilab Housing Association ltd., that leaks and outstanding repairs at her home meant her daughter's bedroom was unusable and their belongings were damaged, which impacted their physical and mental health.

The watchdog's investigation found the resident had been reporting issues since early 2018. An independent inspection report had recommended various repairs after highlighting issues, including a leak in the bathroom and a damp bedroom wall. There is no evidence to show that the housing association completed the works or that an action plan was produced, leaving the repairs outstanding for at least two years, the Ombudsman reported.

The landlord failed to meet its repair obligations as well as its obligations to keep the property free from damp and mould, the Ombudsman found. Additionally, it did not demonstrate how this failure contributed to the damaged belongings and whether it should have offered redress.

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It also failed to assess the appropriate level of redress for the loss of one of the bedrooms due to the mould, the report states.

During its investigation, the Ombudsman said it found no evidence of any investigation of the complaint by the landlord or complaint responses being issued. The investigation concluded that the landlord did not fully engage in the complaint raised by the resident about the repairs and about the damage to her belongings.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: "There were severe failings in this case. The resident had repeatedly contacted the landlord and felt it was not treating her concerns seriously. The landlord did not provide details of its plans to follow up and complete the repairs or to provide her with a reasonable response. It failed to demonstrate an awareness of the detriment which the resident was experiencing by its lack of action and lack of reasonable communication." 

The landlord failed to engage in the complaint despite prompts from our service so lost opportunities to try and resolve it at a local level which the resident had agreed to, Mr Blakeway added.

"Following our decision, I welcome the landlord's response on its learning from this case and the changes being made to improve its service. I would encourage other landlords to consider the learning this case offers for their own services."

Inquilab has agreed to pay a total of £3,633 in compensation, provide a detailed schedule of works to deal with all the outstanding repairs, and discuss the scale of damage to the resident's possessions and offer redress to reflect this.

Additionally, the housing association should conduct a senior management review into the case, including why it failed to carry out the required repairs at the property and failed to raise and respond to a formal complaint despite multiple interventions by the Ombudsman.

A spokesperson for Inquilab apologised for the level of service provided in this instance.

The spokesperson added: "Whilst the Covid Pandemic brought challenges in maintaining our service levels as a result of the restrictions imposed by the Government resulting in staffing and contractor issues, this should not have stopped our organisation from communicating better with our resident nor providing the assistance needed."

Inquilab said that it has made several changes based on lessons learnt from the case. These include:

  • Implementing a new repairs integration system to provide better visibility of outstanding repair
  • have developed a new complaints procedure to improve complaint handling and installed a new complaints module within our Residents Portal
  • have invested in a new website which includes a dedicated Residents section, and signposts to feedback and our complaints procedure are providing further customer service training for our staff.

Adam Carey

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