The Housing Ombudsman has found severe maladministration for Golding Home’s complaint handling. It followed a resident’s report of repairs, that she repeatedly made over a period of seven years from 2012 to early 2019. 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. 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 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.
We found severe maladministration for the landlord’s complaint handling and maladministration for its response to the resident’s report of repairs. We also considered the landlord’s record keeping as part of the assessment and 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.
“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.”
We ordered the landlord to apologise, pay £2,500 in compensation and set out the steps it was taking to meet its repair obligations.
We also made a number of recommendations for the landlord including to review its record keeping, comply with our Complaint Handling Code and report back on any lessons learned.
In cases of severe maladministration, the Ombudsman invites the landlord to provide a short statement on the lessons it has learned following the decision.
Comment from Golding Homes:
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.
Since the outcome of this case, we have made the following improvements:
- Reviewed and renewed our complaints resolution policy and procedure
- Trained all our frontline colleagues and managers on dealing with complaints
- Improved our record keeping and monitoring of complaints
- Set up regular contact with the Housing Ombudsman Service to improve our communication with them
- Communicated regularly with our 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.
Severe maladministration is the topic of the Ombudsman’s latest podcast. It explores how the Ombudsman reaches severe maladministration decisions with examples discussed by caseworkers.