We ordered Livv Housing Group to pay a resident nearly £3,000 in compensation after its delayed repairs and inability to inspect the source of the issue left him in a damp and leaky home for four years.
On top of this, the landlord’s records exacerbated the issue and also the Ombudsman’s ability to investigate, leading to another severe maladministration finding. This is the first time the Ombudsman has found severe failings around information management.
The resident said this left him “on the verge of a nervous breakdown” and caused him frustration and stress.
When the resident first raised the damp, the landlord’s records show the job was cancelled the next day, saying it was raised in error. The landlord says it attended to remove the existing plaster and damp proof the ceiling, but it was not clear whether the landlord investigated the source of the leak at this time.
Two months later, another report of damp was made at the home but a month later the job was cancelled due to it “no longer being needed”.
Over the next three and a half years there is evidence of eight repairs works being carried out to various aspects of the home. After an inspection for rising damp was declared as “no access” by the landlord, there was no follow up with the resident to try and reschedule.
There are multiple instances where the landlord’s repairs and the repairs log seem to not align, with one repair to the ceiling not appearing to be backed up by inspections or reports, meaning it is unclear how the works were decided.
The landlord’s repair logs do not contain sufficient detail. Some, albeit limited, actions were taken by the landlord which were not recorded in the records, and that where actions were recorded, the information is limited.
After the problems were not solved by repairs efforts, the resident advised the landlord that he would look to instruct a solicitor, so he did not face the issues for another four years.
Whilst letting the resident know about the claim he could make, the staff member responded inappropriately by referencing a missed appointment and saying the landlord is able to “defend cases successfully when appointments are made and broken”.
The landlord was ordered to apologise in person to the resident, as well as a review of the landlord’s repairs record keeping, including its logging process to ensure repairs are cross-referenced across systems and the audit trail is clear.
Given its handling of the repairs, we recommended the landlord review current reports and complaints raised by other residents in the building who may have been affected by the leak.
It was also ordered to review its complaint handling against the Complaint Handling Code and produce guidance on responding to enquiries from residents relating to legal action in repair cases.
In its learning from the case, the landlord said it has developed a Damp Dashboard and created a new repairs management software to help prevent issues happening in the future.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “There was a deep lack of professionalism in the way this case was handled, and the heavy-handed behaviour of some staff after multiple failings by the landlord was inappropriate.
“The landlord failed to appropriately investigate and remedy the source of the leak for four years. This poor handling means other residents may have been affected, and therefore we recommended the landlord take action to investigate this further.
“Its repairs records are brief, without sufficient detail of its actions.
“Accurate and complete repair records ensure that the landlord can monitor and manage outstanding repairs, understand the condition of its homes, and provide accurate information to residents.
“They also assist the landlord in fulfilling its repair obligations and providing such information to the Ombudsman and other third parties when requested.
“Our recent Spotlight report on Knowledge and Information Management spelt out the necessity of record keeping, and we hope the landlord takes those recommendations on board.”
We also found maladministration for the landlord’s complaint handling.
In all cases of severe maladministration, we invite the landlord to provide a learning statement.
Livv Housing Group learning statement
We’re sorry for the distress this experience has caused our customer. We recognise that the case went on far too long and a more holistic approach should’ve been taken to resolve the issue sooner.
On each occasion an issue was reported, we undertook repairs to the home. However, this didn’t prevent the problem recurring and we should’ve recognised this.
We’d already implemented a wide range of changes in our approach to dealing with damp and mould prior to this finding, but we’ve also used this case to develop our learning further:
- We’ve further strengthened the awareness of our Damp Treatment Framework to ensure all customer facing colleagues can identify and report on cases at the earliest opportunity.
- We’ve developed a Damp Dashboard that uses data to identify hotspots and trends in cases being reported. This will allow us to begin to proactively engage with our customers to resolve issues early and ensure any repairs we undertake resolve the problem.
- We’ve introduced a new repairs management software to enhance our ability to track a repair from start to finish and improve our record keeping.
- We’ve expanded our Complaints Team and improved our systems and procedures to ensure that all complaints are responded to and handled according to our policy timescales, keeping customers updated at every stage.
We’ve complied with the orders of the Ombudsman and we’ll continue to learn from this case to improve our service for customers and mitigate the risk of similar failings occurring again.