We found severe maladministration for Clarion’s repeated failure to respond to a resident’s complaints and her requests to escalate them. The resident had regularly reported a leaking roof, damp and mould and cracks to the interior of her property. She complained about the landlord’s lack of action and then had to constantly chase for updates on action it was taking to resolve the issues or to respond to her, resulting in considerable time, trouble and frustration.
The resident complained in November 2019 about a delayed start to roof replacement works but her complaint was not escalated by the landlord until the Ombudsman intervened, resulting in a response four months later. The landlord did not respond to her later complaint in 2020 which by then concerned additional matters including worsening damp and mould and interior cracks. Following further intervention from the Ombudsman, the landlord provided a stage 1 response, some five months after the resident had submitted the complaint and then she had to chase again for a final response at review stage. This came 12 weeks after she had first requested it, a delay that was considerably beyond the landlord’s 20 working day service standard for such a response.
During this time the resident and her family were living in deteriorating conditions, and she made repeated reference to the detrimental impact of the damp and mould on her family’s health.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “Overall the landlord’s oversight of its complaints procedure in this case was poor. Threaded throughout is the resident’s evident frustration and exasperation with the landlord repeatedly failing to respond to her complaints.
“It failed to ensure the resident was provided with responses within the timeframes she was entitled to expect. This failure meant the involvement of the resident and our intervention to an unreasonable degree. The delay, time and trouble suffered by the resident in pursuit of her complaint was not only considerably inconvenient and frustrating but will also have given her little confidence her complaints were being treated as seriously as they deserved to be.
“Following our decision, I welcome the landlord’s response on its learning from this case and the changes being made to improve its service. I would encourage other landlords to consider the learning this case offers for their own services.”
We ordered the landlord to pay additional compensation of £1,100 on top of the £1,200 it had previously offered for failing to provide adequate recognition of its service failures. We also ordered the landlord to respond to the resident on the remaining aspects of her complaint including replacement of roof timbers which she considered to be damp and mouldy, the schedule of works and how she can make a personal injury claim.
In cases of severe maladministration, we invite the landlord to provide a short statement on the lessons it has learned following the decision.
A Clarion spokesperson said:
“We want to ensure the services we provide at Clarion are customer focused and always as effective as possible.
This was a complex case and while our focus was on completing the repairs and keeping the resident and her family regularly updated on progress, we accept that our formal communication via the complaints process fell short of the standard our residents have a right to expect. It took us too long to reply to letters and we accept the ruling of the Ombudsman on this basis and apologise to the resident.
We have explored what we can learn from this case and have issued renewed guidance to staff on when to escalate an enquiry to a formal complaint. We are also piloting the introduction of Resident Liaison Officers (RLOs) who have a specific focus on managing complex cases and seeing them through to resolution.
Clarion has also written to every one of our residents across the country in recent months, explaining how they can make a complaint and the process for contacting the Housing Ombudsman.”