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Ombudsman awards £5,000 to resident after Orbit’s severe maladministration on damp and mould case

6 December 2022

The Ombudsman made a severe maladministration finding for Orbit Group’s handling of reports of damp and mould, which left a resident and her son in an unsuitable home with a slug infestation.

We found severe maladministration for Orbit Group’s handling of reports of damp and mould due to multiple failures to complete repairs over two years. It left a resident living in an unsuitable property with damp, mould and a slug infestation for an extended period which she said had a detrimental impact on her  and her son’s health.

The resident first reported issues with mould, damp and water coming into the property over a period of 10 years. The landlord identified works in 2020 to repair the guttering and downpipes but failed to carry them out.

A survey later that year recommended extensive works that exceeded ordinary repairs and the landlord recommended the resident be moved and it dispose of the property. In the meantime she continued to chase the landlord about the damp and although she ultimately wanted to move, she did not know what was happening. She complained saying she was dissatisfied with the landlord’s response to the damp issues at her home and the lack of communication, despite the severity and urgency of the situation.

The landlord said that since the time the resident had been offered a move, its policy had changed and it no longer offered a transfer unless there were extreme circumstances.

In our investigation it was clear there were serious problems with damp and mould at the property, as well as related issues with slugs for a substantial period of time which were reported as an infestation on a number of occasions, and that required repairs were not carried out. The landlord also referred to the issues being due to “lifestyle choices”.

Failure to carry out works is a serious failure, especially given the length of time and the severity of the issues. It is apparent that the landlord was focussed primarily on the resident’s desire to find suitable alternative accommodation and when it was unable to facilitate this, it responded to the re-housing issue rather than addressing the property condition issues.

We ordered the landlord to apologise and pay £5,000 compensation as well as completing remediation works or finding suitable accommodation for the resident.  We also ordered a senior management review of the case.

Following our investigation, the landlord’s learning from this case includes the introduction of specialist surveys and frontline training for property teams.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “It is concerning that the landlord referred to lifestyle issues as the cause of damp and mould, despite the history of failed works and its subsequent position that the property required disposal.

“The landlord’s assessment of the condition of the property was confusing and contradictory. This raises questions about the landlord’s record keeping, communication and decision making.

“The landlord, and the wider sector, should use the learning from this case. My recent letter to social landlords leaders asks them to renew their focus on the recommendations in our Spotlight report on managing damp and mould cases and to adopt a zero tolerance approach.

“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 the case offers for their own services.”

We also found maladministration for the landlord’s communication and complaint handling.

Read the report

In cases of severe maladministration we invite the landlord to provide a short statement on the lessons learned following the decision.

Orbit learning statement

We have accepted the findings of the Housing Ombudsman regarding this complaint. We acknowledge that Orbit did not always meet the expectations of our customer regarding the timescales or actions taken. We have apologised to the customer and are working with them to progress the instructions outlined by the Housing Ombudsman.

At Orbit, we use all direct customer feedback and our engaged customer groups to help drive further improvements in our service levels. To manage similar issues, we have the following in place:

  • Specialist contractor surveys.
  • Front line training and new equipment for our property teams.
  • Targeted customer communications
  • Enhanced ‘real time’ systems which report, track and execute property repairs.

Orbit remains fully committed to doing everything we can to improve the standard of homes and communities wherever we work.