Housing Ombudsman urges social landlords to address individual circumstances of residents when dealing with cladding complaints

The Housing Ombudsman has called on social landlords to do more to address residents’ individual circumstances in cladding complaints.

The Ombudsman warned that these circumstances were at risk of being lost because of the scale of the challenge facing landlords, which have prioiritised their remedial programmes based on the fire risk to residents.

In a report the Ombudsman has focused on where it has received most complaints – the response of social landlords to leaseholders and share owners seeking to re-mortgage, staircase or sell. 

It calls on landlords to:

  • provide a clear road map on inspections, with timescales, that adequately considers the broader implications for all residents, especially those living in buildings below 18 metres.
  • communicate effectively with residents, ensuring the strategy is “robust, well-resourced and proactive”.
  • address residents’ individual circumstances, exercising discretion where appropriate as with other complaints.

The report is based on complaints handled by the Ombudsman between October 2019 and March 2021. Overall, the Ombudsman considered 64 complaints on the issues covered in the report, with 17 entering its formal remit for investigation and maladministration found in 88% of those cases. A table in the report identifies eight landlords with findings on these issues.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “At the heart of the cladding crisis there exists extreme unfairness and residents, through no fault of their own, will feel this sense of injustice most. In our decisions we have been clear about what it is reasonable to hold social landlords responsible for, but however difficult the situation is for landlords it is infinitely worse for any resident living in a home affected by this crisis.

“Our casework reveals the extraordinary lengths residents are taking to overcome the barriers preventing them re-mortgaging, staircasing or selling – and central to our report is concern about residents’ individual circumstances being lost because of the enormity of the challenge facing social landlords.”

Mr Blakeway added: “The building safety crisis is broad and I am acutely aware that the limitations of our jurisdiction mean in this situation our remedies may not always provide complete resolution. Yet our decisions can make a difference and ensure a resident’s voice is heard. The purpose of this report is to extend our recommendations further, to the benefit of far more residents.

“Every social landlord whose residents are affected should consider the actions in the report. I would urge senior leaders to discuss them at their governing body and share their response with their residents.”

(c) HB Editorial Services Ltd 2009-2018