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Severe maladministration for Leeds City Council after significant failings in repeated repairs

24 January 2023

The Ombudsman found severe maladministration in how Leeds City Council dealt with a water leak, leaving a resident without a repair and living with damp for over two years.

We found severe maladministration for Leeds City Council after the landlord failed to effectively tackle a water leak, causing a resident to live for two years with damp in both the kitchen and bathroom.

When the resident first reported the leak, the landlord said it would replace the extractor fan in the bathroom and make multiple repairs to the kitchen, including  new worktops and replacement cupboards. While the measuring up work took place, there was no indication of any other visits, and the resident contacted the landlord six months later to ask for an update.

Internal emails show the landlord did not action the major repairs, and therefore no quick action was taken. Two months after, when contractors did arrive, they were only tasked with removing units and fitting thermal boarding, which the resident refused as he didn’t believe it would fix all the issues.

The resident subsequently reported tiles peeling off the walls and floor, to which the landlord conducted an inspection of the property, but took a further month to do so.

The inspection found many of the problems from the initial complaint were still unresolved. While the landlord notes that the repairs were then completed following this inspection, they do not appear in any of the landlords’ repairs records and the resident later told the Ombudsman that several jobs were outstanding.

We contacted the landlord to ask for the remaining repairs to be completed, but after a ‘no access’ report from the contactor, it took a further eight months for the landlord to be in contact with the resident about the repairs.

While the landlord highlighted the impact of the impact of Covid-19 on its repairs service, the investigation found this did not account for the very long delays and seemingly poor management of the repairs.

We ordered the landlord to pay the resident £1,000 in compensation, start staff training on complaint handling, and carry out a review of this case for future learning.

Lessons identified by the landlord include introducing a new tracking system on repairs and creating a dedicated damp and mould team.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “The landlord repeatedly failed to complete repairs even though it was made aware of outstanding works over a prolonged period. While I do not doubt the pandemic was a factor, the information available highlights significant failings in the management and monitoring of repairs by the landlord, leading to an adverse effect to the resident.

“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 in the complaint handling from the landlord, finding that its response was inadequate and often missed opportunities to recognise what had gone wrong and learn from mistakes.

Read the report

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

Leeds City Council learning statement

We have apologised to the customer for the delay in completing the outstanding repairs and the time taken to resolve the complaint.  We welcome feedback from our customers to help us improve the service that we offer. On this occasion, the service that we offered fell below the standard that our customers should expect.

We continue to review lessons learnt from all our complaints. As a result of this case, we have:

  • Given our ‘out of hours’ staff mobile devices to update our repairs system. This allows our day-time staff to see exactly what work is outstanding and information isn’t lost
  • Shared the learning as a case study with all Housing Leeds staff and our contractors – this helps staff to understand the impact on our customers when things go wrong
  • Provided refresher training/extra guidance for all officers who investigate and respond to complaints, including our contractors, to make sure that we are meeting our service standards – during the complaint investigation we missed the opportunity to put things right for the customer.
  • Introduced a new process which tracks any further works needed after a job has been attended.
  • Set up a new Damp & Mould team that tenants can contact directly. This makes sure that damp and mould reports are recorded and responded to quickly, and that tenants are kept updated.
  • Created a minor works team to manage this type of ‘multi trade’ jobs in the future.

Our aim is to continually learn from customer feedback. We ask all customers to complete a satisfaction survey after we have responded to their complaint and after every repair. This allows us to understand what works well, and where we need to improve.