Case Study 15: Management of rent account

In December 2009 Ms B complained to her landlord that her rent account was in arrears despite having arranged some years previously to pay by direct debit. The landlord concluded that it had failed to update the request it made to Ms B’s bank in line with the annual rent increases. Ms B therefore agreed a payment plan to clear the arrears with the landlord and no further action was taken.

When the problem recurred at the end of 2011 the landlord again chased Ms B for her new rent arrears. The landlord had evidently not learnt from the previous complaint, having again failed to update the request made to Ms B’s bank for the direct debit payments.

Ms B therefore made a new formal complaint which went through to the final stage of the landlord’s complaints procedure. The landlord upheld the complaint and apologised for the service failure in how the payment was collected. However it also highlighted that Ms B’s obligation to pay the full and correct rent remained throughout the period, and that she could have done so by reviewing the quarterly rent statements it provided.

After investigating the case we found the landlord’s response was inadequate. It was not a fair response because it did not acknowledge the fact that Ms B had originally raised the issue herself in 2009, and that she had tried to meet her obligation of paying the full rent by originally arranging the direct debit. We also found that the landlord’s apology alone was neither appropriate nor proportionate redress for the repeated mistake and we ordered it to pay Ms B £100 compensation in recognition of its errors.