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Waverley Borough Council to pay nearly £13,000 after delayed disability adaptations forced resident to install his own

10 August 2023

The Ombudsman has found severe maladministration for Waverley Borough Council after it unreasonably delayed the installation of disability adaptations for 18 months.

A zimmer frame with table in the background with various items on it

We have ordered Waverley Borough Council to pay almost £13,000 to a resident after delays in providing disability adaptations meant the resident was forced to undertake them himself. This meant his son, who has cerebral palsy, was waiting 18 months for the home to be suitable for his needs.

Whilst there were some factors outside of the landlord’s control, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, there were still unreasonable delays and poor communication throughout.

After the resident confirmed he wished to proceed with the adaptations, it took the landlord five months to confirm there was a need for specialist contractors and a further six months for the quotes to be obtained.

When the quotes were compiled, it was discovered that the cost of the works would be more than allowed in the landlord’s policy. Therefore, it needed to explore other options first.

However, it then took a further two months for the landlord to undertake a site visit to assess having the work done by its own contractors, and then another two months until it placed an order for the adaptations.

It was then a further three months that the landlord made a provisional booking for the works to take place. By this point 18 months had passed since the original indication from the resident that he wished to progress the adaptations, at which point he told the landlord he would undertake the work himself.

There were also several instances where the landlord failed to respond to resident communications – including when he told it he was progressing the works himself.

On top of the compensation, we ordered the landlord to undertake a thorough review of its approach to disabled adaptations.

Due to the resident withholding rent during the investigation, in the circumstances of this case, the Ombudsman has allowed for the landlord to offset some of the money against the residents’ rent account.

Read the report

In its learning from the case, the landlord said it is reviewing its policies and procedures around processing requests for disabled aids and adaptations and will also be introducing a new user-friendly tracking service for monitoring cases.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “Whilst not technically classified as urgent works, clearly they were clearly immensely important to the family and should not have been unreasonably delayed to the extent that they were.

“These delays were compounded by the resident then sometimes being ignored. This was unacceptable during a period of time that the resident was trying to get vital adaptations for his son completed.

“I welcome the learning the landlord has taken from this case and urge other landlords to look at this case for lessons on how to deal with disability adaptations and the sensitivities in doing so.”

In all cases of severe maladministration, we invite the landlord to provide a learning statement.

Waverley Borough Council learning statement

We would like to offer our sincere apologies for the poor service received by our resident and his son.

Waverley Borough Council accepts that there were unreasonable delays in dealing with an application made by one of our residents for adaptations to meet the needs of his disabled son, and that our communication with our resident could have been improved.

The Council has learned valuable lessons from this case, and as requested by the Ombudsman, we are in the process of carrying out a comprehensive review of our policies and procedures around processing requests from our residents for disabled aids and adaptations to establish why, on this occasion, we did not meet our usual standards and to identify and make improvements to prevent errors occurring in the future.

As part of this review, we are conducting interviews with residents to gather feedback on our policy and we will be reporting our final recommendations to Waverley’s Landlord Services Board in September 2023.

As a result of this review, we will be taking the following actions:

  • We will be putting in place a clear and robust communications plan to ensure that our tenants are kept regularly updated on the progress of their application for aids and adaptations.
  • We will make sure that all relevant staff have a thorough knowledge and understanding of our Aids and Adaptations policy and procedure.
  • We will create a user-friendly tracker for monitoring live cases.
  • We will keep our resource needs under continuous review so that we can deliver a high standard of service.

We firmly believe that these actions will help to drive service improvements which will benefit our residents and we would like to thank the Housing Ombudsman for highlighting this matter to us.