We found severe maladministration for Notting Hill Genesis after it failed to carry out a repair to a faulty window, leaving a resident and her young children with a window that posed a health and safety risk to them as well as to members of the public.
After the North London resident first raised the issue, the landlord hired a contractor to assess the situation who said a replacement rather than a repair may be necessary due to safety concerns.
Using this information, the landlord should have urgently inspected the windows but it took two months for another contractor to attend the home for further inspection. The landlord then failed to obtain the report from the second contractor, with the resident having to prompt it two months after the visit.
After the second contractor also found safety concerns with the windows and doubted whether repairs alone would fix the problem, the landlord failed again to act with the urgency required. The resident was forced to contact the contractor directly over a month later, in which it informed the resident it was awaiting payment from the landlord.
Once the landlord had authorised payment it should have provided the resident with regular updates about when the contractor would action the repairs, and ensure the window was safe in the meantime. However, the landlord failed to do so.
When another month passed, the resident made a formal complaint. However, in the landlord’s response it did not acknowledge the safety aspect of the complaint and therefore the complaint was escalated to stage two.
Once the resident had reiterated the safety concerns she had, the landlord took appropriate steps to arrange for the window to be made safe and boarded up that day – six months after the initial reporting of the unsafe window.
Nine months after the condition of the window was first reported, the contractor attempted to fix it but was not able to. It took another seven months for the windows to be replaced.
We ordered the landlord to pay the resident £1,400 in compensation and a focused review on the steps and timescales required where there is a potential health and safety risk involving windows.
In its learning from the case, the landlord said it changed its emergency repair policy, updated resident welcome packs to empower them to voice concerns and update management reporting to allow for better repairs identification.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “A mother had to go to extraordinary lengths to get the landlord to listen to their valid concerns about the safety of the windows for her children. It is wholly unreasonable for the appropriate action to take this length of time.
“Throughout this period, the landlord did not take sufficient action based on the information being provided by its contractors. Nor was the resident kept up to date with the repair or informed about the potential need for more extensive works. The landlord also showed a lack of empathy for the resident’s concerns.
“Faults with windows is a potential emerging issue in our casework and can be the cause of considerable distress and inconvenience for residents. There are lessons from this case for other landlords.
“I welcome the landlord’s response on its learning from this case and the changes being made to improve its service.”
We also found maladministration for the landlord’s complaint handling due to not responding to all of the concerns in its stage one response or outlining how it resolve the issue. The landlord also failed to offer appropriate compensation.
In all severe maladministration cases, we invite the landlord to provide a learning statement.
Notting Hill Genesis learning statement
We are very sorry for the unacceptable length of time it took us to replace the resident’s windows and the serious inconvenience it caused her and her family. Our standards fell way below what we demand and as such we fully accept the findings of the housing ombudsman with regards to how we handled this repair.
We have carried out a whole case review of the complaint to identify the lessons we can learn and improve our internal processes, which includes:
- Treating all faulty window, and balcony door, mechanisms where the window won’t lock or shut properly as an urgent emergency repair
- Instructing contractors that if a faulty window mechanism cannot be fixed, the window should be left so it cannot be opened (including tilting) until the full repair is carried out. To enable this all operatives should be trained to leave the mechanism in a condition that prevents opening until a full repair is carried out
- Updating our resident welcome packs and handbooks to ensure residents are aware of the risks of faulty mechanisms and how to report them, as well as the importance of windows being lubricated
- Producing staff guidance to discuss window safety at annual visits
- Updating our management reporting so we can better identify repairs where no follow-up visits have been arranged following an initial call-out
Any finding of this nature comes as a huge disappointment to us and we will ensure it acts as motivation to get issues like this right first time in future.