The Housing Ombudsman has found severe maladministration in relation to a South East housing association’s complaint handling, after a resident waited seven years for repairs.
The resident of Golding Homes, which manages 8,000 homes in Kent, repeatedly reported the need for repairs from 2012 to early 2019.
The Ombudsman said: “When she made a formal complaint in late 2018, the landlord failed to use its complaint procedure to investigate the resident’s concerns and to take action where it identified that something had gone wrong.”
The resident said that at the start of her tenancy the property was “uninhabitable” with repair issues including damp, leaking windows and rotten weatherboard. According to the Ombudsman, she described the property as cold, the kitchen and bathroom required replacing, the electrics were old and tiles were falling from the roof.
The resident also said the landlord had informed her that it may choose to sell the property rather than complete the works as they were too expensive, and had therefore stopped reporting repairs as she did not want to move.
The Ombudsman said: “The majority of the repairs were marked as complete by the landlord suggesting that they were not lasting or permanent solutions and that more extensive intervention was needed. However the landlord had not kept any details in the records so we were unable to draw any conclusion on the success or quality of the repairs.
“When we asked the landlord to respond following contact from the resident, it did not engage its complaint procedure and therefore provide the resident with a formal response. We considered that the resident was adversely affected by the inaction of the landlord. This included uncertainty, raised expectations, distress and inconvenience, and lost opportunity.”
In addition to finding severe maladministration for the landlord’s complaint handling, the Ombudsman also found maladministration on the part of Golding Homes for its response to the resident’s report of repairs. It considered the landlord’s record keeping as part of the assessment and also found maladministration.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “It is wholly unsatisfactory that the resident was reporting the same issues in 2019 as she had raised in 2012, a period of approximately seven years.
“Our Complaint Handling Code sets out how a landlord should respond to a complaint effectively and fairly. It should seek early resolution and deliver improvement to the services a landlord provides. In this case the landlord’s failure to provide a formal response to the resident’s complaint meant it missed opportunities to put things right and caused the resident further distress and inconvenience.
“This inaction also limited our ability to thoroughly investigate all aspects of the complaint. Without knowledge of the landlord’s decisions we are unable to assess the quality of its decision making based upon the known circumstances at the time, and therefore whether its course of action was reasonable or not. It is crucial that all landlords have robust record keeping.”
Blakeway added: “An essential part of complaint handling is demonstrating learning to deliver improvement. I welcome the positive response from Golding Homes on this case and the actions it has taken following our decision for wider service improvement. I would encourage other landlords to consider the learning this case offers for their own services and to listen to our latest podcast which explores cases of severe maladministration in more detail.”
The Ombudsman has ordered the landlord to apologise, pay £2,500 in compensation and set out the steps it was taking to meet its repair obligations.
The Ombudsman also made a number of recommendations for the landlord including to review its record keeping, comply with its Complaint Handling Code and report back on any lessons learned.
In a statement Golding Homes said: “We are very sorry about the service provided to our customer on this occasion. This historical case has given Golding the opportunity to learn and improve. We take the finding from the Ombudsman extremely seriously. We have worked hard over the past year to improve our focus on customers and the services we deliver.”
The organisation added that, since the outcome of this case, it had made the following improvements:
- Reviewed and renewed its complaints resolution policy and procedure
- Trained all its frontline colleagues and managers on dealing with complaints
- Improved its record keeping and monitoring of complaints
- Set up regular contact with the Housing Ombudsman Service to improve its communication with them
- Communicated regularly with its customer and progressed repairs to electrics and fencing.
“We take full responsibility for our failing and are determined to learn and ensure that it cannot happen to another Golding customer,” it said.