Housing Ombudsman finds severe maladministration on Woking case

24 February 2021

Housing Ombudsman finds severe maladministration on Woking case after elderly resident had no heating or hot water for almost three years

An elderly resident lived in a property without heating or hot water for almost three years while Woking Borough Council failed to take appropriate action to resolve the situation. The Housing Ombudsman’s investigation found severe maladministration and we ordered the landlord to pay the resident £6,000 compensation.

Following the 83-year-old’s initial report of not having any heating or hot water, the landlord was unable to gain access and six weeks later capped the gas supply. We found no evidence of further action being taken for a year until the annual gas service visit but no attempt was made to investigate what repairs might be needed. The gas supply remained capped for the following two annual gas safety inspections as the resident refused access.

During our investigation, we found several missed opportunities by the landlord to try and resolve the matter and limited action to check the resident’s welfare. The annual gas checks were in line with the landlord’s obligations, but it was not appropriate to comply with these alone.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “While the landlord may have found this case difficult due to problems accessing the resident’s property, its lack of action was deeply concerning. It left an elderly, potentially vulnerable, resident in need of assistance. The landlord missed opportunities to put things right, only making contact when an annual gas inspection was due. These failings demonstrated a lack of regard to the landlord’s obligations as well as a lack of concern for any health and safety risks.

“The lack of heating and hot water caused the resident severe distress and inconvenience. Her case reinforces our concerns about the significant impact of heating and hot water issues on residents.

“I welcome the landlord’s prompt actions following our decision and it is now crucial for it to learn lessons arising from our investigation. I would encourage other landlords to consider the learning this report offers for their own services.”

As well as paying compensation, we ordered the landlord to:

  • offer the resident sufficient alternative heating to heat the property
  • offer to provide a safe way for the resident to make herself hot food in the short term
  • demonstrate to the Ombudsman that it has a robust plan in place to repair the boiler and reinstate the gas at the property.

Read the case summary

Earlier this month we published a Spotlight report on complaints about heating, hot water and energy in social housing. It makes 40 recommendations for improved practice. Read the full report.

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