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Serious failings behind inadequate social landlord response to racist attack by neighbour, Housing Ombudsman finds

The Housing Ombudsman has found severe maladministration at Habinteg Housing Association for failing to respond to reports of a hate-crime incident and failing to consider its impact on the resident.

The Ombudsman said the inappropriate response to the incident  - in which a resident's neighbour had allegedly physically and verbally assaulted her, threatened her and used a racist slur against her - was the result of serious failings at the housing association.

Habinteg owns more than 3,000 properties in England and Wales and specialises in offering accessible homes for disabled people. Of the homes it develops, 75% are 'accessible and adaptable dwellings', and the remaining 25% are 'wheelchair user dwellings'.

Habinteg carried out its own investigation in response to a complaint about the incident, but the landlord abandoned its inquiry after the perpetrator said the police were not taking any further action due to lack of evidence.

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The landlord logged the incident as anti-social behaviour and not a racist attack.

The Ombudsman's later investigation found that it was a serious failing and not appropriate that the landlord had closed the incident as a result of a conversation with the neighbour.

In response to the Ombudsman's findings, the landlord acknowledged there had been failure in its handling of the incident and apologised to the resident for not logging it as a hate crime, not giving it the appropriate priority and over-relying on the police investigation as opposed to carrying out its own investigation.

In light of the failings, the Ombudsman recommended the landlord pay £500 compensation for its handling of the report of the hate-crime incident and asked it to apologise to the resident for the failings identified in the case.

In addition, the landlord was advised to revisit its ASB policy to include details of what action to take when it receives reports of a hate-crime incident.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said the failings the Ombudsman identified had a detrimental impact on the resident, particularly in relation to the impartiality of the landlord.

He added: "It caused her a great deal of distress, frustration and inconvenience which meant that an apology alone was not a proportionate way to put the failures right. It did not reflect the seriousness of its mishandling of the incident and was not victim focused.

"The complaints panel missed an opportunity to properly consider the impact of the errors on the resident and offer financial redress."

A spokesperson for Habinteg said: "Habinteg takes all incidents and allegations of anti-social behaviour and hate crime very seriously. We accept that we should have handled this incident much better and we have apologised to the tenant.  

"Since this incident took place, two years ago, we have commissioned an independent review of our handling of the case and we are implementing a new anti-social behaviour policy. We have carried out additional staff training to improve how we respond to anti-social behaviour and hate crime incidents and have also established a new post to improve our complaints handling process."

Adam Carey

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