Flagship Housing Group Limited
13 October 2023
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 is about the landlord’s handling of the resident’s request for better communal lighting and the current communal door to be replaced by a metal door and a fob entry system.
- This Service will also look at the landlord’s complaint handling.
- The resident has been an assured tenant of the landlord since August 2018. The property is a one bedroom first floor flat in a new build development.
- The resident has voiced her concerns over the lighting and communal door since 2018, culminating in a formal complaint in July 2022. The resident stated the lighting was not sufficient in the development. She stated she had been locked out of the block twice, the communal door was not secure, and was not disabled friendly as it is heavy to open.
- The landlord did not uphold the resident’s complaint, which was escalated through the complaint stages to a panel hearing in September 2022. The landlord maintained its position and the resident brought her complaint to this Service as she remains dissatisfied.
- As a resolution the resident would like the communal door to be replaced and for the new door to have a fob entry system.
Assessment and findings
- When investigating a complaint, the Ombudsman applies its Dispute Resolution Principles. These are high level good practice guidance developed from the Ombudsman’s experience of resolving disputes, for use by everyone involved in the complaints process. There are only 3 principles driving effective dispute resolution:
- Be fair – treat people fairly and follow fair processes;
- put things right, and;
- learn from outcomes.
- The Ombudsman must first consider whether a failing on the part of the landlord occurred, and if so, whether this led to any adverse effect or detriment to the resident. If it is found that a failing did lead to an adverse effect, the investigation will then consider whether the landlord has taken enough action to ‘put things right’ and ‘learn from outcomes’.
The landlord’s handling of the resident’s request for better communal lighting and the current communal door to be replaced by a metal door and a fob entry system.
- Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 the landlord is obligated to keep the structure and exterior of the dwelling house, including the communal areas in good repair.
- The resident raised her concerns about the provision of lighting for the flats since 2018, this formed part of the landlord’s stage 1 response in July 2022. The landlord advised the lighting was adequate and consistent with the wider development. The landlord has confirmed to this Service it carries out monthly and annual inspections of the emergency lighting and the local council provides the street lighting. The resident did not escalate this element of the complaint to the next stage. The landlord reasonably concluded it had resolved the resident’s lighting query sufficiently at stage 1, as such this will not form a further part of this investigation.
- The resident has reported numerous issues with the communal door since 2018. These reports include the communal door:
- not closing properly
- having a weakened frame
- being a fire safety hazard
- not being secure
- having a faulty latch
- being jammed
- sticking and being difficult to open
- and having been damaged when a fight took place in the communal areas.
- The landlord has inspected the communal door following reports of repairs on 16 occasions since the defect period expired to March 2023. It has carried out repairs where necessary. In addition, representatives of the landlord attended to see if the door was working correctly on 17 November 2021 and 8 June 2022. The landlord has been consistent in its responses stating the communal door was fit for purpose and will not be replaced unless beyond economic repair. Following the resident’s escalation to complaint stage 2, in August 2022 the landlord instructed a review of the communal door by an independent specialist contractor to seek to establish whether the communal door:
- was fully operational and fit for purpose
- worked as designed, or
- presented a fire risk.
- The contractor reported slight movement in the communal door, but no more than usual. The contractor confirmed the communal door was steel plated and suitably robust. The communal door worked as designed with the system being relatively new and, at the time of inspection, did not warrant any upgrade/replacements. The fire safety team confirmed the communal door did not form part of the compartmentation system, therefore was deemed as safe.
- This Service recognises the resident believes a new communal door is needed and has spent considerable time and effort trying to ensure this is done. However, the landlord is entitled to rely on the opinions of its qualified staff concerning whether replacement of the communal door was necessary. In this case the landlord took the decision to instruct an independent specialist contractor. The subsequent report concurred with the landlord’s opinion. This Service finds the landlord has acted fairly and appropriately in trying to evidence the suitability of the communal door.
- Social landlords have limited resources and to be fair to all residents and to manage their resources effectively, landlords are expected to prioritise necessary repairs.. The landlord would not be expected to replace the communal door unless it was beyond economic repair, or it had received professional recommendations that it was necessary. Once the communal door is beyond economic repair, the expectation is for the landlord to replace it like for like.
- This Service has seen evidence the landlord has recommended the resident obtain an occupational therapist report if there are concerns due to any disability. If the occupational therapist report supported the need for a new communal door, it would provide the landlord with guidance over any necessary changes.
- The landlord has responded to the resident’s concerns, inspected the communal door on multiple occasions and found no fault. The landlord is satisfied the communal door does not pose a fire risk and has recommended the resident considers an occupational therapist referral therefore this Service has found no maladministration.
The landlord’s complaint handling.
- The landlord’s complaint policy has changed from a 3 to a 2 stage system. At the time of the resident’s complaint the landlord operated a 3 stage process.
- The landlord responded to the resident’s complaint in a timely manner. The initial complaint was within 10 working days, stage 2 in 17 working days, the panel meeting was held less than a month after the escalation, and the response provided 5 working days later.
- Throughout its dealings with this issue the landlord has responded appropriately to the resident’s repair reports.
- The complaint responses were thorough in content and clearly advised the resident of the next available steps.
- Through the complaints process the landlord took the decision to instruct an independent specialist contractor to ensure its previous findings were correct and if not to put things right and learn from the outcome.
- In accordance with the scheme, this Service finds there is no maladministration in the landlord’s complaint handling.
- In accordance with paragraph 52 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, there was no maladministration in the landlord’s handling of the resident’s request for better communal lighting and the current communal door to be replaced by a metal door and a fob entry system.
- In accordance with paragraph 52 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, there was no maladministration in the landlord’s complaint handling.