Ombudsman finds it guilty of severe maladministration
Council says it has revised its complaints procedure
The Housing Ombudsman has found Ealing Council guilty of severe maladministration after it took six years to fix the leaking roof of a resident, leading to a negative impact on her health.
The lengthy and frustrating delays experienced by the leaseholder of a flat began in 2019 when she asked the council to deal with the extreme mould that had been building up in her flat for a number of years.
The council, as the landlord, had previously identified that the roof needed to be replaced following an inspection in 2015. It said this would be included in its next planned programme of works but would complete temporary work to address the leak from the roof that was causing damp. The resident complained that the temporary work to resolve the issues was of a poor standard and about ongoing dampness and the impact on the property, her health and her finances.
In its response to the complaint, the council focused on the single issue of the delay to the roof replacement works referring to procurement issues and then COVID-19 related issues. It failed to address the other issues raised by the resident. The landlord also failed to escalate the complaint as requested by the resident and missed her response to its stage two complaint. This resulted in a protracted and unsuccessful complaints process.
The Ombudsman found severe maladministration for the landlord’s complaint handling and maladministration for its response to the resident’s reports about water coming into her flat and the repairs carried out. The Ombudsman ordered the landlord to pay the resident compensation of £3,600 for the unreasonable delay in completing major works to the building, for the standard of temporary works to resolve the issues and for its complaint handling.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said, “It is clear that the resident experienced a significant detriment over an extended period of her time.
“She encountered significant difficulty in progressing her complaint, even with our assistance, and did not receive a final response at any point. The landlord’s consideration of her complaint lacked customer focus. The fact that it chose to narrow the focus of the complaint just on the delay in the programme of works was a missed opportunity to address the resident’s points of dissatisfaction and resulted in a deterioration in the landlord and resident relationship.
“While it was appropriate to complete temporary repairs and add the roofing works to its planned major works, the timeframe that the resident has been asked to wait for these works - approximately six years - to take place is not reasonable.
“I welcome the opportunity the landlord has taken to learn lessons from this complaint and its actions to improve and prevent similar issues recurring. I would encourage other landlords to consider the learning this case offers.”
In response to the Ombudsman’s decision Ealing Council commented, “Whilst we are disappointed at the persistent failure of service execution that have led to the Ombudsman’s determination of maladministration, we welcome this as an opportunity to learn lessons, review our working practices, and put in place new measures to ensure there is not a repeat of the issues identified in this case.
“With water ingress first identified in 2015, temporary repairs were made whilst a full replacement of the roof was planned to take place in 2018 as part of the Council’s major works programme. Due to procurement issues the Council was unable to call on contractors to carry out these types of works until 2020. In the interim, we were only able to carry out responsive ‘patch’ repairs in response to further reports of water ingress. “
It says that it now has a new streamlined and two-stage corporate complaints procedure, with a bespoke IT system, which gives it a better oversight of complaints trends, enhanced quality checks of responses and an improved customer experience.
In addition a planned programme of cyclical major works is now in place, with two contractors appointed in 2021 to carry out the programme based on a Stock Condition Survey.
The council says it also plans to move to more proactive working practices, including the implementation of automated flagging of repeated responsive repairs, renewed emphasis on post-inspections, and more active monitoring of interim repairs pending major works.
The borough to pay the resident compensation of £3,600, which included compensation for the delay and the standard of the temporary works undertaken on the property as well as the failures in the handling of the complaint.
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January 11, 2022