Tendring District Council’s significant and avoidable delays in dealing with a resident’s repairs led to a finding of severe maladministration by the Ombudsman. The repairs, including a leaking roof, rotten window frame, blown plaster and damaged artex, had initially been reported in 2019 and were still not fully resolved in late 2021.
When the resident complained about the lack of repair work, the landlord did not acknowledge or properly address her concerns over the length of time that had already been taken to deal with the repairs she had reported. Neither did it give any timeframe for when it aimed to resolve the issues.
The resident said she felt angry, frustrated and depressed at the prospect of having to endure another winter without the repairs being completed. She said the landlord’s response to her complaint did not demonstrate that it had considered the effect of the delayed repairs on her.
In its stage two response to the complaint, the landlord acknowledged that there had been significant delays in addressing the repairs, but was not able to provide any detailed repair records or a satisfactory explanation for why the repairs were not appropriately addressed for such a long period of time. While it apologised to the resident and did provide better communication regarding the progress of repairs in late 2020, its responses were often vague and did not provide her with a clear timeframe for when the matters would be resolved. Its offer of £100 compensation was not reasonable redress for the inconvenience and distress caused.
We found severe maladministration for the landlord’s handling of the repairs, maladministration for its complaint handling and service failure for its record keeping.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “It is a significant concern that in late 2021 the landlord still appears to be attending to repairs initially reported in 2019, over two years earlier. There were missed opportunities during this time to fully respond to the resident’s concerns and provide a more detailed explanation of the action it had taken to progress the repair together with an idea of how much longer the works may take.
“As our Complaint Handling Code sets out, landlords should clearly set out what will happen and when and it did not do so in this case. The landlord’s stage two response did not amount to a ‘substantial response’, nor did it fully outline any findings of the enquiries it had made into the resident’s complaint. This was not appropriate and meant that she was not treated fairly during the complaint handling process.
“Our investigation also highlighted extensive issues with the landlord’s record keeping so the landlord was not able to adequately show what steps it took to deal with the repairs, and was unable to demonstrate whether it responded appropriately.”
We ordered the landlord to pay the resident a total of £2,110 compensation, issue a further apology, carry out a further, final inspection of the property and provide a plan of action. We also recommended that the landlord’s senior management review the findings and remedies set out in the decision and draw up an action plan to improve its repairs service delivery.
In cases of severe maladministration, we invite the landlord to provide a short statement on the lessons it has learned following the decision.
Councillor Paul Honeywood, Tendring District Council (TDC) Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “On behalf of the council I would like to wholeheartedly apologise again to our tenant for our failure to provide the quality service they have every right to expect, and the poor way in which we then handled their complaint.
“I have taken this issue up with officers to ensure that lessons have been learnt and our systems have been improved to ensure we provide a high-quality housing service to the more than 3,000 homes in our stock.
“As well as commencing an overall review of the repairs process to look at what other improvements could be made, we have taken a number of steps already to address the issues highlighted by the Ombudsman’s report, for which we are grateful.
“These include implementing new IT systems to better record and track property inspections, appointment of a new maintenance contractor and development of an in-house team following the winding up of the previous supplier, and further training on complaints handling.
“We are proud that for at least ten years this is the first report from the Housing Ombudsman indicating maladministration by TDC as a landlord – but even one case is too many and we will do our utmost to ensure the lessons learnt from this are implemented.”