We found severe maladministration for A2Dominion after its poor complaint handling left a mother and her family living in “dangerous and unacceptable conditions”.
We also found maladministration for issues relating to the poor state of temporary accommodation and damp and mould in the home, which were unresolved for nearly two years.
The resident has mental health issues and some of her children are also vulnerable – one is disabled and has a developmental learning disorder.
The landlord’s failures occurred from the start, as it treated the dissatisfaction from the South London resident as a service request rather than a complaint. Following this, the landlord then failed to address all of the concerns within the complaint.
Given the gravity of the situation, the landlord should have proactively raised a complaint to ensure its records were accurate. This may have helped to ensure it addressed each of the resident’s concerns accordingly.
Over the period of 14 months, the resident consistently said the landlord either closed unresolved complaints or failed to respond altogether, leaving her and her family in a home that had rotten window frames and severe mould in the children’s bedrooms.
In the second part of the complaint, the landlord failed to keep the resident informed and updated about an additional investigation that was needed and failed to acknowledge its stage two response was delayed.
We ordered the landlord to pay the resident £5,700 in compensation, review its decant policy and review its complaint policies to ensure they are compliant with the Complaint Handling Code.
In its learning from the case, the landlord said it has strengthened its damp and mould taskforce as well as make changes to its stage two responses to improve the process.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “It was wholly unacceptable that the resident was prevented from addressing serious concerns through the landlord’s internal complaints process.
“Ultimately, despite intervention from third parties, she failed to attain appropriate redress until around 23 months after the decant. This will have caused significant distress and inconvenience to the family.
“Ultimately, the landlord failed to consider awarding appropriate redress at any point during the complaint journey.
“I am seeing too many examples of landlords not taking valid complaints into their procedure and it is critical, given the intention for the Complaint Handling Code to become statutory, for landlords to ensure its approach meets the standards.”
The Ombudsman found maladministration for how the landlord dealt with the damp and mould issues at the property, as well as how it handled a temporary decant.
On the decant, the landlord failed to ensure the resident’s welfare during the process or redress the distress and inconvenience arising from its failure. The landlord failed to mitigate damp and mould within the home and left issues running for 21 months.
In all cases of severe maladministration, the Ombudsman invites the landlord to provide a learning statement.
A2Dominion learning statement
We would like to offer our sincere apologies again to our resident for the issues that were raised in August 2020, and any distress they experienced. The safety of our customers is our number one priority.
The Ombudsman’s determination was issued in November 2022 and we accept there were failings with delays to maintenance work being carried out, the alternative temporary accommodation provided, and the amount of compensation offered.
We have provided compensation in line with the ruling and have complied with all the orders in this case. Repair work has since been completed at our customers home, and we have carried out further inspections to make sure these issues are not repeated.
We have taken the opportunity to learn lessons from this case and implement improvements.
- We have strengthened a task force team to proactively manage and prioritise issues related to damp and mould.
- Since our stage two complaint response was issued in July 2021, we have introduced case conference reviews within our complaints process.
- Changes to the complaint code and our internal complaints policy have taken place since this time, providing further clarity on service escalations and complaints.
- Our policy for alternative temporary accommodation has been updated and the damp and mould policy has been reviewed and refreshed with our customer service committee and customer scrutiny panel.
We work collaboratively with the Ombudsman, fully accept their recommendations and value the opportunity to use the learning to drive improvements for our customers.