Bromford Housing Group Limited (202204008)

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COMPLAINT 202204008

Bromford Housing Group Limited

14 February 2024


Our approach

The Housing Ombudsman’s approach to investigating and determining complaints is to decide what is fair in all the circumstances of the case. This is set out in the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Ombudsman Scheme (the Scheme). The Ombudsman considers the evidence and looks to see if there has been any ‘maladministration’, for example whether the landlord has failed to keep to the law, followed proper procedure, followed good practice or behaved in a reasonable and competent manner.

Both the resident and the landlord have submitted information to the Ombudsman and this has been carefully considered. Their accounts of what has happened are summarised below. This report is not an exhaustive description of all the events that have occurred in relation to this case, but an outline of the key issues as a background to the investigation’s findings.

The complaint

  1. The complaint is about:
    1. The level of compensation offered following the landlord’s handling of repairs and replacement of the resident’s kitchen.
    2. The landlord’s complaint handling.


  1. The resident has an assured tenancy with the landlord which started on 15 March 2004. The landlord is a registered provider of social housing. The property is a 3-bedroom house. The resident has shared with the landlord that she has depression, PTSD, and polymyalgia.
  2. On 27 April 2022, the resident contacted the landlord and complained that:
    1. The landlord had agreed to replace her kitchen in May/June 2021, following a survey at the property in which it said the kitchen was “not fit for purpose”. The resident said she was still waiting for the kitchen replacement.
    2. There were holes in the external kitchen walls.
    3. Her energy bills were £80 per week and the holes in the kitchen were at least partially responsible for the cost.
    4. The issues were harming her mental health, and she felt the landlord had mishandled the process.
  3. On 6 May 2022, the resident spoke with the landlord by telephone and explained that her property had an energy efficiency rating of “E”. The resident said she still had holes in the kitchen, and she had tried to fill the holes with plastic bags to act as insulation. The resident also said she had been told she did not qualify for a wet room in the property, and she wanted compensation for the distress and inconvenience caused.
  4. On 12 May 2022, the landlord provided the resident with its stage 1 response in which it stated:
    1. a surveyor attended the property in June 2021. The landlord said due to human error, it had not submitted a work referral and therefore it had not put the resident’s kitchen on a plan for the tax year ending in 2023.
    2. a surveyor attended the property again in January 2022 to assess the layout and model of the resident’s kitchen. The landlord said further delays were due to miscommunication between the investment team and the contractor, where the contractor was advised not to proceed further as the investment team were going to carry out the replacement.
    3. it had contacted the repairs manager and contractor to provide a quotation for the replacement kitchen.
    4. if the resident required a wet room installation, she would need to contact the local authority and arrange for an Occupational Therapist assessment. The landlord said the resident could then request copies from the local authority to process the request through a disabled facilities grant.
  5. On 20 June 2022, the resident escalated her complaint. In her correspondence, the resident said:
    1. the officer who sent the stage 1 response had not responded to her recent communication. The resident said she had since found out that the officer had left their employment, but the landlord had not informed her about this.
    2. she was unhappy that there was a service failure regarding the kitchen replacement, but the landlord had not offered an outcome or compensation.
    3. the landlord had given her inaccurate and conflicting information about the kitchen replacement.
    4. she wanted confirmation that the landlord would replace the kitchen in 2022. The resident also said she also wanted clarification on which contractor would be carrying out the replacement as there had been conflicting information about this.
  6. The landlord replaced the resident’s kitchen in August 2022.
  7. On 31 October 2022, the landlord issued its final response, in which it explained:
    1. it had tried to call the resident to discuss her complaint, but it was unable to reach her. The landlord said it had missed the resident’s stage 2 escalation request. The landlord explained that a staff member had left the company which resulted in further delays in responding to the resident’s complaint. The landlord apologised for this and said it would be taking this point forward as a learning opportunity.
    2. it was sorry for the lack of communication in its stage 1 response and lack of clarity.
    3. it accepted there had been delays with communication. The landlord also acknowledged there had been a lack of updates to the resident about the kitchen replacement. The landlord explained that an officer had been chasing for responses and updates on the resident’s kitchen after the stage 1 response had been issued.
    4. it was also sorry for the delays in installing a new kitchen. The landlord said it had since installed a new kitchen but noted that it had already agreed to a replacement and therefore the delays were avoidable.
    5. it installed new insulation in the property in 2021 and the insulation was “as should be”. The landlord said if there were any other repair issues then the resident should inform the landlord and it would arrange for a full survey of the property.
    6. it would be taking the resident’s case forward as a learning opportunity in the wider business.
    7. it would offer £1,285 compensation to the resident, comprised of:
      1. £10 – failure to provide initial acknowledgement on time
      2. £100 – failure to escalate the complaint in line with the complaint policy
      3. £50 – failure to engage with resident and lack of clarity in stage 1 response.
      4. £750 – delays in arranging kitchen replacement.
      5. £100 – several administration errors and lack of ownership for repair/replacement.
      6. £375 – heating contribution costs.
  8. In referring her complaint to the Ombudsman, the resident said:
    1. she had made 3 complaints to the landlord on 11 January 2021, June 2021 and April 2022. However, the resident said the landlord did not respond or resolve the first 2 complaints.
    2. she was spending more per week on coal/fuel than what the landlord had offered towards her heating costs.
    3. she did not want to be a “case study” for future learning.
    4. the compensation does not reflect the distress and inconvenience caused and the impact on her mental health.
    5. the dates referred to in the landlord’s compensation calculations in its stage 2 response were incorrect.

Assessment and findings


  1. Paragraph 42(a) of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme states:“42. The Ombudsman may not consider complaints which, in the Ombudsman’s opinion: a. are made before having exhausted a member’s complaints procedure unless there is evidence of a complaint-handling failure, and the Ombudsman is satisfied that the member has not taken action within a reasonable timescale”.
  2. The resident said she raised previous complaints with the landlord in January and June 2021 about issues with her kitchen. From the evidence provided, these complaints followed a separate complaint procedure and the landlord responded to these complaints with a stage 1 response. As these are separate issues to the complaint raised with the Ombudsman in this case, this is not something that the Ombudsman can determine at this stage, as the complaints have not exhausted the landlord’s complaint procedure. This investigation has therefore focussed on events from April 2022 to October 2022, when this complaint exhausted the landlord’s complaint procedure.

Scope of the investigation

  1. The resident has stated that the heating issues affecting her property have been ongoing for 10 years. The Ombudsman appreciates that this may be a longstanding issue, however, it would not be effective for the Ombudsman to consider events dating back 10 years. The records may not be available, memories fade and staff members may have come and gone. As a general principle, the Ombudsman will consider complaints which have been raised within a reasonable time of the events occurring. For this reason, the Ombudsman’s investigation does not consider any specific events prior to April 2021, which is 12 months before the resident complained to the landlord in April 2022.
  2. The landlord investigated and responded to several issues including the resident’s request for aids and adaptations and the installation of a wet room. However, in referring her complaint to the Ombudsman, the landlord appears to have addressed and resolved this issue as part of its internal complaint procedure. The landlord has confirmed that it installed a stairlift in the property on 26 April 2023 and it is awaiting an Occupational Health approval for a level access shower. The landlord has agreed to support the resident with any aids or adaptations required with approval and assessment from an Occupational Therapist. The Ombudsman has been unable to confirm with the resident if she is satisfied with the landlord’s approach. The Ombudsman has therefore recommended that the landlord contact the resident about the level access shower.
  3. Accordingly, this investigation has focussed on and assessed the circumstances of the issues that remain outstanding, being the level of compensation offered following the landlord’s handling of repairs and refurbishment of the resident’s kitchen and the landlord’s complaint handling.

The level of compensation offered following the landlord’s handling of repairs and replacement of the resident’s kitchen

  1. From the evidence provided, the landlord does not dispute that it failed to replace the kitchen in line with its repairs policy. The landlord’s repairs policy does not give a timescale for planned or major works such as a replacement kitchen, but the landlord said it had agreed on a 90-day service agreement with the resident. The landlord said it was aware in February 2021 that the resident’s kitchen required replacement and therefore should have completed the replacement by May 2021. The landlord has acknowledged in its stage 2 response that there were delays in replacing the resident’s kitchen. The landlord has explained the reason for the delay was due to human error and communication issues between several departments. This is clearly not appropriate.
  2. That said, the landlord apologised to the resident for the distress and inconvenience caused and made an offer of compensation. The Ombudsman notes that the landlord’s compensation calculation should total £1,385, not £1,285 as stated by the landlord in its stage 2 response. The Ombudsman assumes this was a typographical error.
  3. Specifically, the landlord has offered the resident £1,225 for its handling of the repairs and replacement of the resident’s kitchen (plus an additional amount for its handling of the resident’s complaint, which the Ombudsman has investigated further in this report).
  4. The landlord has provided a detailed summary of the compensation it has offered to the resident as part of its complaint responses, as follows:
    1. For the delays in replacing the kitchen, the landlord has offered the resident a total of £50 per month for each month that the kitchen remained in disrepair. The landlord calculated this from May 2021 when the kitchen should have been replaced, to August 2022 when the kitchen was replaced. This was a total of 15 months x £50 per month = £750.
    2. In addition, the landlord has offered the resident £100 for its failure to take ownership of the kitchen replacement from when it first completed a survey of the property, and in recognition of several administration errors.
    3. Further, the landlord has offered £375 towards the resident’s heating costs, calculated at £25 per month for the 15 months it failed to replace the kitchen.
  5. In accordance with the Ombudsman’s remedies guidance, the landlord’s offer in recognition of the failure to replace the kitchen in the agreed timescale was reasonable.
  6. The resident said the compensation offered by the landlord for her heating costs is not sufficient. The resident said she was spending approximately £80 per week on heating costs and said the cost was largely due to holes in the kitchen which made it more difficult to heat her home. The resident also raised concerns regarding the energy efficiency rating for the property and concerns about the levels of insulation in the property.
  7. The landlord has accepted that the kitchen required replacement and was in a state of disrepair. The landlord said it inspected the kitchen and found no holes, but accepted there may have been draughts in the kitchen at the back of the cupboard units. The landlord said it did offer temporary repairs to the kitchen, but the resident refused this as she said she did not want this to delay the kitchen replacement. The Ombudsman has not seen any correspondence from the landlord to the resident to confirm it offered to temporarily repair the draughts in the kitchen, other than a reference to this in an internal email from the resident’s housing officer.
  8. The landlord said it was unable to determine what impact the kitchen had on the resident’s heating costs, but it offered to pay a contribution towards the heating costs as a “gesture of goodwill”. In addition, the landlord said the heating system in the property was replaced in 2017, cavity wall insulation was replaced in February 2021 and the resident also has a wood burner, so she has different ways to heat her home. On 15 June 2022, the landlord said the resident should be on a dual-rate energy tariff and suggested that the resident change this by contacting her supplier. It also said it had completed a new evaluation and the energy rating for the property was closer to a C rating.
  9. The resident has not provided the landlord with evidence of the heating costs incurred. The Ombudsman has also not seen evidence of the resident’s heating costs before and after the kitchen replacement, or copies of any survey reports to establish the extent of the heat loss in the kitchen. It is not clear if the landlord contacted the resident to request copies of her energy bills to compare the energy usage before and after the kitchen replacement.
  10. Based on the evidence provided, this service is not able to accurately assess the likely impact of the repairs on the overall costs of heating the property. It is usual for a landlord to provide a temporary source of heating where failures of heating systems occur and to refund the associated costs. However, the Ombudsman has not seen any evidence to suggest there was a heating system failure. Rather, the resident said the issue was with the condition of the kitchen and concern about heat retention in the property.
  11. Where we are satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, a resident has incurred costs but has not been able to evidence this and it is not possible to provide a reasonable estimate, we may say that a landlord should pay an amount in recognition of the fact that the resident has incurred costs that would not have arisen had the maladministration not occurred.
  12. As an exact measure of the likely costs the resident incurred is not possible, this service must look to its own remedies guidance to make an assessment of the compensation due. In the Ombudsman’s opinion, given the lack of evidence available, the landlord’s offer towards the resident’s heating costs was reasonable.
  13. The resident said the landlord’s delays, lack of communication and lack of updates severely impacted her mental health and made her mental health worse. When there is a pre-existing medical condition that may have been exacerbated, the courts often have the benefit of a medicolegal report. This will often set out the cause of the medical condition and the prognosis. That evidence can be examined and cross-examined during a trial. In this case, while the Ombudsman has no reason to disbelieve the resident’s comments, it would be difficult for us to arrive at firm conclusions about the impact on the resident’s mental health based on a review of the documentary evidence available in this case. However, the Ombudsman has considered the general distress and inconvenience that the resident experienced because of the landlord’s handling of the kitchen and the associated complaint. Taken together the compensation fairly recognises the likely distress caused to the resident.
  14. In its stage 2 response to the resident, the landlord offered a survey of the property if the resident was concerned about any further disrepair. It is recommended that the landlord contact the resident to confirm if there are any outstanding disrepair issues and establish whether a survey is required.
  15. It is best practice for landlords to resolve complaints by addressing the substantive issue and any inconvenience that has occurred in the meantime. This is part of providing a fair response. While there was a delay in the landlord replacing the resident’s kitchen which would have likely caused the resident distress and inconvenience, the landlord has acknowledged the delays, apologised to the resident, replaced the kitchen, stated its intention to learn from outcomes and offered £1,225 compensation to the resident in recognition of the failings identified. The Ombudsman would have found some level of maladministration but for the remedy offered by the landlord. As such, there was reasonable redress offered in the landlord’s handling of the repair and replacement of the resident’s kitchen. The determination is made on the understanding that the compensation has been paid or is re-offered to the resident.

The landlord’s complaint handling

  1. The resident raised a complaint on 27 April 2022. The landlord provided its stage 1 response 11 working days later. This is 1 working day over the landlord’s complaints policy which states it will respond to stage 1 requests within 10 working days. While the delay would have likely been an inconvenience to the resident, the landlord acknowledged this in its stage 2 response and apologised for any distress or inconvenience caused.
  2. There were inappropriate delays in the landlord responding to the resident’s escalation request. The landlord did not respond to the resident’s escalation request of 20 June 2022 until 95 working days later. This was 75 working days over the landlord’s complaints policy which states it will respond to stage 2 requests within 20 working days. In addition, the Ombudsman had to contact the landlord to request a final response. The landlord’s failure to respond to the complaint in line with its complaint’s procedure meant it missed an opportunity to address the resident’s concerns sooner and left the resident waiting for a resolution to her concerns. The landlord should have conducted a timely and appropriate investigation and response to the resident’s concerns.
  3. In addition, while the landlord’s stage 1 response acknowledged that it had failed to escalate the kitchen replacement request, it failed to take steps to put things right. Section 6 of the Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code sets out expectations regarding the effective resolution of complaints. Paragraph 6.1 of the Code states that effective dispute resolution requires a process designed to resolve complaints. Where something has gone wrong a landlord must acknowledge this and set out the actions it has already taken, or intends to take, to put things right.
  4. The landlord has offered some redress for the failures identified above and has acknowledged the delays and lack of communication with the resident. The landlord has offered a total of £160 for the associated complaint handling failures and said it would be taking the case forward to learn from outcomes.
  5. In response to this, the resident said she does not want to be a “case study”. While the Ombudsman understands the resident’s concerns, it appears that the landlord was referring to its intentions to learn from outcomes to improve its working practices. Paragraph 7.2 of the Code states that accountability and transparency are integral to a positive complaint handling culture. Landlords must report back on wider learning and improvements from complaints in their annual reports and more frequently to their residents, staff, and scrutiny panels.
  6. Overall, there were failings in the landlord’s management of the resident’s complaint. It failed to effectively communicate with the resident at the earliest opportunity, hindering its ability to consider the full history of the case and provide an integrated approach to the resident’s complaint. There were delays in responding to the resident which contributed to her distress over a considerable amount of time. This service has therefore found the landlord’s offer of compensation not appropriate to the identified failings.


  1. In accordance with paragraph 42(a) of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, the Ombudsman has not investigated the complaints from January and June 2021, as there is no evidence they exhausted the landlord’s complaint procedure.
  2. In accordance with paragraph 53(b) of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, there was reasonable redress in the level of compensation offered following the landlord’s handling of repairs and replacement of the resident’s kitchen.
  3. In accordance with paragraph 52 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, there was service failure in the landlord’s handling of the complaint.

Orders and recommendations


  1. The landlord must, within 28 calendar days of the date of this determination:
    1. Pay the resident £225 compensation in replacement of the £160 offered by the landlord for the complaint handling. This is in addition to the amounts paid for the handling of the repairs and replacement of the kitchen. This is to recognise the distress and inconvenience caused by the poor complaint handling. The compensation must be paid directly to the resident.
    2. Provide evidence of compliance with this order to the Ombudsman.


  1. It is recommended that the landlord:
    1. contact the resident to confirm if there are any outstanding disrepair issues and establish whether a survey is required.
    2. contact the resident to progress the wet room assessment.