Case Study 20: Repairs and complaint handling

Ms A complained about the time taken to address electrical faults and the landlord’s handling of her complaint.

The landlord carried out electrical upgrade work to the kitchens and bathrooms in a number of flats in Ms A’s block. Following the work, Ms A reported that her electric cooker was no longer working properly. She encountered further electrical problems over the next seven months, as did some other tenants.

When she reported the problems, the landlord told Ms A to complain directly to the private contractor which it had employed to do the work, which she did. The contractor made several visits but failed to solve the problem. Eventually Ms A contacted the cooker’s manufacturer who rectified the problems, but Ms A had to pay call-out charges. When she made further complaints to the landlord about the contractor’s poor performance and the call-out charges, she was always referred back to the contractor. Eventually the landlord told Ms A that it had closed the case as it was a matter for the contractor.

Ms A then contacted the Ombudsman for our help. We explained to the landlord that there was no contractual relationship between a tenant and a private contractor, even where a contractor carries out work on a landlord’s behalf. So that even when it sub-contracted services it remained responsible for the provision of the services. We asked the landlord to reconsider Ms A’s complaint and suggested some factors that it might wish to take into account when reaching a decision.

The landlord responded positively to our intervention, accepted its responsibilities and investigated the complaint. It later said that our guidance helped it to focus on how best to resolve the complaint and put the matter right. The landlord apologised repeatedly to Ms A and offered £600 in compensation for the call-out charges; the time she had taken off work; and the mishandling of the complaint. Ms A was happy with this outcome to her complaint.