Two severe maladministration findings for Clarion as Ombudsman reiterates recommendations from its special investigation

31 January 2023

The Housing Ombudsman has found severe maladministration in two separate Clarion cases which formed part of a wider investigation into the landlord.

We have published two cases of severe maladministration involving Clarion, which formed part of our October 2022 special investigation report into the landlord.  This report called for changes to its “slow and ineffective” complaints handling process.

In one case, we found severe maladministration for the landlord’s complaint handling, as well as maladministration for its repairs, compensation offer and record keeping.

The South London resident had reported the ceiling in the bathroom hanging off the wall and the flat smelling of mould. Four months after making the formal complaint, the repairs were still outstanding and the resident complained of a large hole in the bathroom, tiles coming off walls, water damage, mould in several rooms and rainwater coming in when it rained.

The landlord accepted that there were a number of failings on its part in its handling of repairs and formal complaint. There was little indication that the landlord considered the resident’s concerns about the living conditions in the property in its complaint response and compensation calculations and did not therefore demonstrate that the adverse impact of its failings, which were serious and cumulative.

We ordered the landlord to pay £2,270 in compensation and for a senior staff member to issue an apology in person to help strengthen the resident/landlord relationship.

Read the report

In the second case, we found severe maladministration for the landlord’s complaint handling, as well as maladministration for its handling of damp and mould and record keeping.

After noticing mould on wood panels in the loft, the Kent resident reported this to the landlord who pointed him towards the direction of the National House Building Council (NHBC), who had provided a warranty and insurance policy for the newly built property.

The NHBC referred the resident back to Clarion, as the landlord held the policy documents and needed to make any insurance claim.  The landlord’s surveyor made inspections, but the landlord did not retain copies of the inspection reports, nor did it tell the resident what action it would take or respond to his request for an update.

After many further delays in which the works were left outstanding, the resident was offered £25 compensation in the stage one response and a further £150 in its stage two response for the delay in issuing the response and ‘a failure of service standards’.

We considered that the compensation offer was not proportionate to the circumstances of the case. There was also no evidence that the landlord had fully identified what went wrong, put things right, or learnt from outcomes.

Ultimately, it had not completed the actions it committed to, and its serious complaint handling failings had caused significant inconvenience to the resident.

There were also serious failings in the landlord’s record keeping. The landlord did not keep a record of the initial inspections or of the claim sent to the NHBC. There was no audit trail to confirm the details of the claim, or the decision reached. Nor did the landlord have a record of phone calls made by the resident.

We ordered the landlord to pay the resident £1,200 in compensation and set out how it is going to improve from this case.

Read the report

We have urged the landlord to “double down” on its efforts to meet the report’s recommendations, which looked at damp and mould, pest control, complaints handling, compensation and record keeping.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “Our report found key weaknesses in its approach to damp and mould and complaint handling. We set out a series of recommendations to improve these aspects of the landlord’s service.

“The landlord has accepted our recommendations and taken steps to address the issues identified. I would encourage the landlord to double down on its efforts to achieve a positive complaint handling culture, embedding change across what is a large organisation.”

In all cases where we find severe maladministration, the landlord is offered to share their learning from the case.

Clarion learning statement

“These are historic cases dating back to 2020 and 2021 that have been published previously as part of the Housing Ombudsman’s Special Report. We have apologised to the residents, paid compensation, reviewed the cases and have made significant changes to our services. This includes steps to continue to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our complaints handling performance.

“Following a review of the first case, we have taken a number of steps including increasing our monitoring of the progress of complaints and providing further training, including on NHBC warranties.

“Our review of the second case has prompted us to embed a number of improvements, including revising our agreement with the tenant management organisation.

“We have also provided extra support for complex repairs including the allocation of a Resident Liaison Officer (RLO), increased monitoring of the progress of complex repairs, and additional system checks.”