Habinteg Housing Association’s considerable failings in responding to reports of a hate-crime incident along with its failure to consider the impact of them on the resident led to a finding of severe maladministration.
The resident reported an incident to the landlord where the neighbour had physically and verbally assaulted her, threatened her and used a racist slur against her. The resident was unhappy that it was logged as anti-social behaviour and not a racist attack. The landlord had visited the resident and the neighbour and awaited a police report but then said it would be taking no further action after the neighbour said the police were not taking any further action due to a lack of evidence.
The landlord acknowledged there had been failure in its handling of the incident and apologised to the resident for not logging it as hate crime, not giving it the appropriate priority and over relying on the police investigation as opposed to carrying out its own investigation.
Our investigation identified further, serious failings. It was not appropriate that the landlord had closed the incident as a result of a conversation with the neighbour. There was a long gap between the incident and when the landlord restarted its investigation after confirming with the police that the incident was still ongoing. The Ombudsman also found a lack of evidence of clear decision-making.
The resident’s complaint contained a number of other issues where we found no maladministration. These included the landlord’s response to her reports of noise, staff behaviour and complaint handling. We found service failure for the landlord’s response to her concerns about inappropriate use of disabled parking spaces.
Following our investigation, the landlord’s learning from this case includes a new anti-social behaviour policy and staff training.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “The landlord apologised in this case but the failings we identified, particularly in relation to the impartiality of the landlord, had a detrimental impact on the resident. It caused her a great deal of distress, frustration and inconvenience which meant that an apology alone was not a proportionate way to put the failures right. It did not reflect the seriousness of its mishandling of the incident and was not victim focused.
“The complaints panel missed an opportunity to properly consider the impact of the errors on the resident and offer financial redress.
“Following our decision, I welcome the landlord’s response on its learning from this case and the changes being made to improve its service since the incident took place. I would encourage other landlords to consider the learning this case offers for their own services.”
We ordered the landlord to pay £500 compensation for its handling of the report of the hate-crime incident and to apologise to the resident for the failings identified in the case. We also recommended that the landlord revisit its ASB policy to include details of what action to take when it receives reports of a hate-crime incident.
In cases of severe maladministration we invite the landlord to provide a statement on the lessons it has learned following the decision.
“Habinteg takes all incidents and allegations of anti-social behaviour and hate crime very seriously. We accept that we should have handled this incident much better and we have apologised to the tenant.
“Since this incident took place, two years ago, we have commissioned an independent review of our handling of the case and we are implementing a new anti-social behaviour policy. We have carried out additional staff training to improve how we respond to anti-social behaviour and hate crime incidents and have also established a new post to improve our complaints handling process.
“We want our customers to have confidence that Habinteg will deal with their concerns in a timely and professional manner. We are sorry that we didn’t handle the case in question appropriately at the time. The Ombudsman’s feedback has offered an important learning and improvement opportunity.”