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Harlow District Council (202222989)

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REPORT

COMPLAINT 202222989

Harlow District Council

7 November 2023

 

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 landlord’s handling of an ongoing roof leak into the resident’s property.
    2. The landlord’s handling of the associated complaint.

Background

  1. The resident is a secured tenant of the landlord. The tenancy began in February 2012. The property is a house.
  2. The landlord is a local authority and delivers property maintenance services through a local authority trading company, which also responded to the resident’s complaint. For the purposes of this report, the company will also be referred to as “the landlord”.

 Summary of events

  1. The landlord’s records show that a job was passed to its roofing contractor on 5 October 2020 following the resident’s reports of water ingress into 2 rooms of the property and damage to the roof.
  2. The resident raised an initial complaint with the landlord on 23 October 2020. She reported that her roof had been leaking for a long period of time. Over the previous month, the leak had damaged the ceiling in her bedroom and hallway and when it rained water was dripping through her electrics. She had recently had her ceilings replastered and painted and this, along with items in her loft, had been destroyed. She had called the landlord’s repairs service multiple times and was told that roofing repairs could take up to 9 months. A contractor had attended to make her electrics safe, and a roofer had attended and deemed the work urgent. She believed that the issues, along with the damage to her personal belongings and decorations, could have been prevented. She asked how long the works were likely to take and said she wished to be reimbursed for damage caused to her belongings and decorations.
  3. On 11 November 2020, the landlord’s records show that work was completed to erect scaffolding, clear the gutters, repoint the chimney stack, install eave trays, refix roof tiles, including felt and battens, renew 2 tiles, and re-bed ridge tiles.
  4. The landlord issued a stage 1 complaint response to the resident on 11 November 2020 and apologised for the delay in providing its complaint response. It confirmed that a job was raised on 5 October 2020 as an urgent repair and allocated to its roofing contractors. The contractors required scaffold, which was authorised on 5 November 2020. It was aware that scaffolding was erected on 10 November 2020 and work was being completed that day. It provided information on how the resident could make an insurance claim through its insurance team via email or phone. It did not uphold the resident’s complaint as its contractors had attended within its priority timescales. It explained that the resident could escalate her complaint should she remain dissatisfied with its response.
  5. The Ombudsman has not seen any further communication between the resident and the landlord following its stage 1 complaint response.
  6. A roofing contractor attended the resident’s property on 28 September 2021 following her reports of leaks into her bedroom the previous day. They inspected the loft and found that the felt had perished in various locations. They recommended works to erect scaffolding and renew the roof due to the various leaks.
  7. The landlord’s records show that a job related to the roof leaks was cancelled on 29 November 2021. However, it remains unclear as to the reason for the job or the reason for cancellation.
  8. The resident contacted the landlord on 24 February 2022 and explained the following:
    1. The issues had not been resolved. She had initially had 4 leaks in various areas. This was considered urgent and “fixed” as part of a previous formal complaint, but the repairs were unsuccessful, and the roof continued to leak.
    2. She had 2 contractors visit so far; the first attended in September 2021 and confirmed that a new roof was required. She then had a further visit by another contractor who carried out an assessment and had the same finding.
    3. In November, she had received a call card from a contractor and had arranged a date for them to attend but they had not shown up. She then chased this a few times but had not heard anything since.
    4. She said that the new damage was visible and there were 2 large yellow and brown stains on her bedroom ceiling which she could not afford to keep having fixed. She also had water dripping through the bedroom when it rained, and the issue was worse following a recent storm.
    5. She asked for an update as she had not heard anything for 3 months and she had needed to put pots and pans down to catch water when it rained. She was dissatisfied that she kept needing to chase the repairs and believed that the issue was becoming worse.
  9. The landlord responded on 28 February 2022 and explained that the roof had been referred for replacement internally and it was waiting for approval. In the meantime, it said it would arrange for the roof to be sheeted to prevent water ingress. It confirmed that this would require scaffolding to the front and rear of the property and that its contractors would arrange an appointment.
  10. The resident contacted the landlord on 7 July 2022 to request an update on the roof replacement. She said that she had not heard anything further in 5 months and that the ceiling in her bedroom had brown patches from water coming through it. She said that the issues had been ongoing for 2 years and she had needed to pay for the ceiling to be painted twice and plastered the first time following initial works to fix the issues. She expressed concern that the damage would worsen over the winter months and said that she did not want to decorate if the issue kept resurfacing as this had already cost her £890 which she did not feel was fair.
  11. The resident asked for her complaint to be escalated to stage 2 on 21 August 2022 and explained the following:
    1. She was dissatisfied that the issue of water ingress into her property had been ongoing for 3 years and was continuing to cause damage to her property and belongings.
    2. She said that she needed to throw several items in her loft away due to water damage and had needed to pay for decoration of the ceiling to mask the damage that was being caused. She had spent almost £1000 to rectify the visibility of the issue and could not keep doing so if the issue was going to resurface each time.
    3. She said that with each heavy downpour, a new leak appeared. Multiple contractors had attended and said that the roof needed to be replaced but that they were awaiting on further instruction from the landlord.
    4. She had been advised that the roof could be sheeted until it was repaired but this had not been done. She asked that action was taken before the winter months as she did not feel it was fair that she had needed to repeatedly raise the issue. She was dissatisfied that it had been another year without the issue being rectified.
    5. She added that she had noticed that the roof now bowed slightly which she believed was related to the water issues.
  12. On 23 August 2022, the landlord said that to raise a stage 2 complaint, the complaint would need to have been escalated within 28 days of a stage 1 complaint response. It could not escalate the complaint to stage 2 due to the timescales involved but offered to raise a stage 1 complaint.
  13. The resident responded on the same day and confirmed that she wished to proceed with a stage 1 complaint. She was told the issues were being resolved but they had been ongoing since her initial complaint in 2020; multiple operatives had attended and there had been multiple emails, but the issues were becoming progressively worse.
  14. The complaint was raised at stage 1 on 24 August 2022. The landlord said that the target date for its response was 8 September 2022. The landlord’s records show that a letter was sent to the resident on 8 September 2022, advising of a delay in providing its complaint response. The Ombudsman has not seen a copy of this letter.
  15. The landlord’s records show that a job to inspect the roof with a view to possibly cover it with a sheet due to water ingress was raised on 13 September 2022.
  16. The resident pursued her complaint and the repairs with the landlord on 16 September 2022 and asked that her complaint was escalated to stage 2 due to the length of time the issue had been ongoing and impact the damage and additional costs were having. She had expressed concern that the complaint would go over 28 days and expire which had happened previously. She reiterated her concerns about ongoing water damage and the length of time the issues had been ongoing, alongside the costs she had incurred by rectifying previous damage. She also expressed concern about the lack of communication from contractors despite multiple visits and said she wanted to take matters further.
  17. On 21 September 2022, the resident emailed the landlord to check whether her communication of 16 September 2022 had been raised. The landlord’s records show that a roofing contractor attended the property on 21 September 2022.
  18. The landlord issued a stage 1 complaint response to the resident on 22 September 2022 and explained the following:
    1. It apologised for the delay in providing its complaint response and explained that it was currently dealing with a high volume of enquiries.
    2. It detailed the repairs history and works completed in November 2020. Its next communication with the resident was on 27 September 2021 where she had reported water ingress into the bedroom ceiling. Contractors attended on 28 September 2021. They advised that a new roof was required, although no work was carried out for which it apologised.
    3. Its roofing contractor had attended on 7 September 2022 and left a card asking the resident to make contact. They tried to access the property again that weekend and on 13 September 2022 when they left a message on the resident’s phone.
    4. Following a phone call on 20 September 2022, the resident had advised that her phone had not been working. A visit then took place on 21 September 2022. The contractor completed an inspection and would arrange for the roof to be sheeted until a new roof could be installed. It was unable to provide an estimated timeline at this stage, but the contractor would contact the resident directly to attend.
    5. It had enquired about the estimated timeline for a new roof and had been advised that this could be in 2024 at the earliest. In the meantime, it would continue to make the property watertight.
    6. It upheld the resident’s complaint due to the delay in making the roof watertight. It apologised for any inconvenience caused and confirmed that the resident could escalate her complaint to stage 2 if she remained dissatisfied with its response.
  19. The resident emailed the landlord on the same day. She said that no card had been left at her property as the landlord had described but her video doorbell had been out of use on this day. She had been at home during the weekend, but no visits were made. Her video doorbell validated that no visits were recorded.
  20. The landlord’s records from 22 September 2022 show that the roofing contractor had said that the roof could be sheeted but that it was up to the landlord to decide on when the roof would be renewed.
  21. The resident asked for her complaint to be escalated on 27 September 2022 and explained the following:
    1. She said that she received a letter from the landlord on 8 September 2022, explaining that there was a delay in responding to her complaint, but no other contact had been made with her until 13 September 2022.
    2. She was dissatisfied that the timescale for the roof replacement was not until 2024 when the issues had been ongoing since 2020. She noted that the repair had been forgotten about at one stage which was not acceptable given the issues the leaks had caused. She believed that the matter could have been dealt with more quickly to avoid damage.
    3. She had paid around £1000 on cosmetic work to the property which included replacing items which had been damaged. She could not have the ongoing issues until 2024. She had not previously asked the landlord to reimburse her for costs but wanted the roof to be fixed so as not to cause further damage.
    4. She did not feel having a sheet over her roof for 2 years was adequate and could not accept this timescale. She could also not have water stains on her bedroom ceiling for 2 years and wanted this to be rectified as soon as possible. She reiterated that she had paid for this area to be decorated 3 times and could not fund this a 4th time.
    5. She wanted to make sure that the issue would not increase her energy usage. The previous year she had experienced dampness in the bedroom and, when it rained, 2 of the patches dripped water which she believed was dangerous.
    6. She believed that the original contractor should have re-attended when it became apparent that the issue had not been resolved and she believed the work originally carried out was to a poor quality as 2 of the ongoing leaks were in the same place as originally identified.
  22. The landlord’s records show that it acknowledged the resident’s escalation request on 28 September 2022.
  23. The landlord’s records suggest that a letter informing the resident of a delay in issuing its stage 2 complaint response was sent to the resident on 18 October 2022. The Ombudsman has not seen a copy of this letter.
  24. The landlord’s records indicate that the roof was sheeted on 22 October 2022.
  25. The resident contacted the landlord on 17 November 2022 and asked when she would receive its complaint response:
    1. She added new concerns including that the sheeting was now causing issues and that her neighbours on both sides had approached her to complain about the noise this was causing. The water coming from the sheets was causing dripping noises and there was additional noise from the sheet flapping. She said that the noise issues were impacting her and her family significantly.
    2. She was concerned about the cost of the works as the issues had been allowed to worsen by the landlord. She said that she would rather persist with placing pots and pans to catch the leaks than to continue with complaints, noise and other damages the sheeting would cause.
    3. She said that she was now seeking legal advice and did not feel it was appropriate for her to be paying out of her own pocket to rectify the damage caused. She said that the flat roof at the front of her property was now becoming flooded which she believed would cause further issues.
    4. She said that she would be seeking damages as she was dissatisfied with the way her reports had been handled. She asked that someone attend to evaluate the sheeting as she could not cope with this for 2 years. She said that her next option would be to complete the work herself and charge the landlord for the cost of doing so. She asked that the landlord provide its stage 2 complaint response so that she could pursue the issue further and seek additional help.
  26. The landlord’s records show that the resident also called it to seek an update on her complaint and repair works on 17 and 22 November 2022.
  27. The landlord has advised this Service that an additional budget required to complete several roof replacements was confirmed internally on 18 November 2022.
  28. The landlord issued its stage 2 complaint response to the resident on 28 November 2022 and explained the following:
    1. It apologised for the delay in providing its response and explained that it was dealing with a high volume of enquiries which was impacting its response timescales.
    2. It apologised for the errors within its stage 1 complaint response and if any information was incorrect.
    3. It acknowledged that there had been ongoing roofing issues at the resident’s property since 2020. While works were carried out in November 2020, it was advised, following a report in September 2021, that a new roof was required. It acknowledged that no work was carried out for which it had apologised.
    4. It explained that the resident was on the list for a new roof, the roof had been sheeted and it was responsible for keeping the property watertight until the works were programmed. It explained that this was not something it could bring forward as this was outside of its control.
    5. It was sorry to hear that the noise from the rain was becoming an issue between her and her neighbours and appreciated the resident’s frustration, however, it explained that the sheeting would need to remain until the roof had been replaced.
    6. It said that frequent visual inspections were carried out on sheeted properties but that if the resident noticed the sheeting becoming loose, she could contact its repairs centre.
    7. It confirmed that having the roof sheeted should not increase her gas and electricity usage.
    8. It said it was unable to replaster any ceilings that needed attention following the roof leak until the roof had been replaced, in case it leaked again. It said that in line with the resident’s tenancy agreement, water staining did not form part of its repairs service and was her responsibility. It said that the resident could contact the call centre once the new roof was complete, and it would assess any internal damage.
    9. It partially upheld the resident’s complaint based on inconsistencies within its stage 1 complaint response and confirmed that if the resident remained dissatisfied with its response, she could approach the Ombudsman.
  29. The resident emailed her MP, the landlord and the Ombudsman on 22 December 2022. She detailed that she remained dissatisfied that she had spent 3 years pursuing repairs to her roof, there were ongoing leaks causing damage in her bedroom and loft and to her ceiling and electrics, she had funded repairs to the damage herself only for this to continue and that she had needed to raise multiple complaints and chase on several occasions. She reiterated that she wanted the roof to be fixed.
  30. The resident referred her complaint to this Service in January 2023. She reiterated the history of her complaint and remained dissatisfied that the issues had not been resolved. She added that the guttering had been removed when the roof was sheeted, and this had led to water flowing onto the ground, damp and mould in the property and damage to external paintwork and her garden as well as issues with her windows. She said that she had received complaints from neighbours about the roof and contractors turning up unannounced to complete work. She was dissatisfied that the landlord had said it would not rectify the water damage in her property because of the leaking roof. In March 2023, the resident advised this Service that the sheeting on the roof had caused additional damage to her doors and windows as the locks had seized. She also said that there was mould in the lower parts of her property and the contractors had not turned up to begin works as agreed.
  31. The landlord has advised this Service that work to replace the roof began on 27 April 2023 and was completed on 18 May 2023. It has provided evidence that a completion inspection was carried out on 19 July 2023 and signed off by building control on 4 August 2023. The landlord said that it had not received any requests for remedial work to the resident’s property since the roof was renewed. It had also not received any insurance claim from the resident.

Assessment and findings

Scope of investigation

  1. In her communication with this Service, the resident has advised that the water ingress issues into her property have impacted her stress levels and that she had begun to take medication for anxiety. While the Ombudsman appreciates the resident’s reports, it is not within the remit of this Service to draw conclusions on the causation of, or liability for, any impact on health or wellbeing. Nonetheless, consideration has been given to any general distress and inconvenience caused to the resident because of the landlord’s actions.
  2. The resident has raised specific concerns related to repair issues in her property which she said are related to the water ingress and sheeting installed by the landlord. This included damp and mould in her property, her doors and windows “seizing” and damage to her garden because of water pouring from the sheeting. This Service cannot investigate aspects of a complaint which have not exhausted a member landlord’s complaint procedure, because the landlord needs to be given the opportunity to formally respond.
  3. As these issues are separate to the issues raised and addressed by the landlord within its complaint responses, the Ombudsman is not able to adjudicate on these matters at this stage. If the resident remains dissatisfied with the landlord’s handling of these repair issues, she may wish to contact it and, if needed, raise a separate complaint. She may then approach the Ombudsman if she remains dissatisfied once she has exhausted the landlord’s complaints procedure.
  4. In her communication, the resident has also raised concern about the financial costs she had incurred by putting right damage caused by the water ingress into her property, which she believes the landlord is liable for. It is beyond the remit of this Service to determine whether the landlord is liable for any additional costs incurred by the resident as these matters are better suited to be dealt with through an insurance claim or through the courts.
  5. When the Ombudsman considers ordering a landlord to pay compensation, this is not to award ‘damages’ in the way that a court might or reimburse the resident’s costs in the way an insurance claim might. The purpose of compensation is to award an amount that proportionately recognises the likely level of distress and inconvenience experienced by a resident due to any identified failures on the landlord’s part. If the resident wishes to seek the recovery of any costs or damages she has incurred, she may wish to seek independent legal advice on making an insurance claim or pursuing the matter through the courts.

Policies and Procedures

  1. The tenancy agreement confirms that the landlord is responsible for repairing and maintaining the structure and exterior of the property, including the roof, drains, gutters and walls, but not internal decoration. The landlord’s website confirms that the resident would be responsible for internal decorations, including minor cracks (except where the landlord had carried out major works repairs and damaged the decorations).
  2. The landlord’s tenant repairs policy provides target completion priorities for different repairs. It states that emergency repairs should be attended to within 24 hours. Urgent repairs should be attended to within 5 working days and standard repairs should be attended to within 20 working days. Some larger planned repairs have a target timescale of 9 months.
  3. The policy specifies that where a property is not watertight in relation to the roof, the landlord should attend within its urgent timescales. It specifies that temporary repairs may be required with full replacements being carried out under its planned programme of works. The policy also states that internal and external decoration works may be completed following repair works under its standard repair timescales as a follow-on from repairs or leaks. This would only be carried out to the affected areas.
  4. The landlord’s compensation guidance allows the landlord to compensate the resident for inconvenience or additional costs such as damage following water penetration. It specifies that allowances could be made for water penetration or other damages to decorations.
  5. The landlord’s complaints policy states that it has a 2-stage formal process. At stage 1, the landlord aims to provide a response within 10 working days. If the resident remains dissatisfied, they can escalate their complaint to stage 2 within 28 days. At stage 2, the landlord should respond within 15 working days. If for any reason there is a delay in responding, the landlord would be expected to contact the resident, explain the reason for the delay and provide an expected response date.

The landlord’s handling of an ongoing roof leak and damage to the resident’s property.

  1. In this case, it is not disputed that the resident had been reporting water ingress through her roof for an extended period. While some repairs to the roof were completed in November 2020, the resident reported in September 2021 that these were unsuccessful and that she continued to experience leaks into her property.
  2. Following a contractor’s recommendation that the roof needed replacing following a visit on 28 September 2021, the Ombudsman would have expected to see evidence that the landlord had taken steps to carry out temporary repairs to limit the ongoing water damage to the resident’s property or considered the impact the ongoing leaks would have on the structure of the property.
  3. Despite the resident continuing to report the issues in February 2022 and the landlord advising that it would arrange for the roof to be sheeted until a decision was made on when the roof could be replaced, the Ombudsman has not seen evidence to show that it followed through with this action which was a missed opportunity to prevent ongoing water damage.
  4. The resident continued to pursue her concerns about ongoing water ingress in July 2022, and within her complaint in August 2022, however, there is no evidence to suggest any temporary measures to prevent ongoing water ingress were taken until the roof was sheeted in October 2022. This was 13 months following the contractor’s reports that the felting had perished in various areas of the roof and represented an unreasonable delay. In addition, the landlord failed to demonstrate that it had communicated effectively with the resident, and the evidence shows that she needed to spend time and trouble pursuing a resolution.
  5. While the landlord apologised to the resident that no work was completed during this period and acknowledged the delay in making the property watertight in its complaint responses, it failed to offer suitable redress to her or acknowledge the time and trouble or inconvenience caused to her because of its failings. It is the Ombudsman’s opinion that financial compensation is warranted in recognition of the impact on the resident during this time.
  6. The landlord is entitled to complete major repairs, such as roof replacements, as part of a planned programme of works. This would be subject to available budget and carried out over any given financial year. Given that the landlord had initially said that the planned programme was not likely until 2024, the Ombudsman would have expected the landlord to take steps to determine whether any other alternative repairs could be carried out in the meantime to prevent ongoing issues for the resident, as it would not be reasonable to leave the property sheeted for an extensive period.
  7. It is noted that works to replace the roof were progressed and completed in May 2023. This was approximately 7 months following the roof being sheeted which was not an unreasonable length of time in line with the landlord’s planned repair timescales of 9 months given the need for the landlord to source additional budget to cover the works. However, this was a significant time following the operative’s initial recommendation that the roof was replaced in September 2021.
  8. Within its complaint responses, the landlord said that it was unable to replaster any ceilings that needed attention following the roof leak until the roof had been replaced in case it leaked again. This was reasonable given any potential new water damage because of the ongoing issues. The landlord has advised that it has not received any contact from the resident to arrange an assessment of any internal damage following the roof replacement in May 2023. As such, an order has been made below for the landlord to contact the resident to determine whether remedial works are required.
  9. It is noted that the landlord said that it would not complete remedial decoration work following the resident’s reports of staining due to the water leaks into her bedrooms as this would be her responsibility in line with the tenancy agreement. While internal decorations would usually be the resident’s responsibility, the landlord’s repairs policy and compensation guidance allow for it to consider remedial actions in response to damage to internal decorations. It is the Ombudsman’s view that the landlord should have considered completing decoration works, or offering compensation to the resident as a contribution towards any costs she would incur by doing this herself, given the delay in carrying out temporary measures to prevent ongoing damage between September 2021 and October 2022.
  10. The resident had made it clear that she believed the landlord was, at least in part, liable for the damage, and it had accepted that it had delayed making the property water tight. If the landlord was not willing to complete works to rectify damage to the resident’s decorations as a result of the water ingress or contribute towards the cost, it would have been appropriate for the landlord to have provided information to the resident on how she could pursue a claim via its own insurance so that she could make an informed decision on how to proceed with a claim should she wish to do so.
  11. In summary, there has been maladministration by the landlord in its handling of an ongoing roof leak and damage to the resident’s property. There were several missed opportunities by the landlord and it has not provided evidence to demonstrate that it had suitably arranged, or monitored works, to make the property watertight within a reasonable timeframe following the resident’s reports of leaks.
  12. While the landlord acknowledged delays as part of its complaint response to the resident, it failed to offer suitable redress to her in recognition of the distress and inconvenience and time and trouble caused. In addition, it failed to fully acknowledge the impact of the delay in making the property watertight and damage to the resident’s internal decorations that were contributed to by its delays. In view of the above, several orders have been made below.

The landlord’s handling of the associated complaint.

  1. The resident initially raised a complaint on 23 October 2020 that was responded to at stage 1 of the landlord’s complaints process on 11 November 2020. The Ombudsman has not seen evidence to suggest that the resident pursued her complaint with the landlord until 21 August 2022, when she asked that the complaint be escalated to stage 2. Given the amount of time that had passed since the resident’s initial complaint, it was reasonable for the landlord to explain that it was not able to escalate the complaint to stage 2 but was able to raise a new stage 1 complaint.
  2. The complaint was raised at stage 1 on 24 August 2022 and the landlord issued its stage 1 complaint response on 22 September 2022. This was outside of its target timescales by 10 working days. The landlord’s records show that it acted reasonably by sending a “delay letter” to the resident on 8 September 2022, however, it remains unclear from the evidence provided as to whether the resident was informed of the landlord’s likely response date. It is noted that the resident spent time and trouble pursuing her complaint on 16 and 21 September 2022 as she had not yet received a response.
  3. The resident asked for her complaint to be escalated to stage 2 on 16 September 2022. It was reasonable that the complaint was not escalated at this stage as the landlord had not yet issued its stage 1 complaint response. This is in line with the Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code which states that landlords should only escalate a complaint to stage two once it has completed the stage one response and at the request of the resident. However, this also suggests that the resident was not provided with an expected response date from the landlord which was also likely to have caused inconvenience.
  4. The resident asked for her complaint to be escalated on 27 September 2022 and the landlord issued its stage 2 complaint response on 28 November 2022 which was issued significantly outside of its 15 working days timescale. The landlord’s records show that it again sent a “delay letter” to the resident on 18 October 2022 and acted fairly by apologising to her for the delay. However, given the delays at both stages, it would have been appropriate for the landlord to have considered offering the resident compensation in recognition of the delays and time and trouble she had spent pursuing its responses.
  5. Within her complaint, the resident also advised of the money she had needed to spend to redecorate the internal parts of the property affected by the water ingress despite the substantive issue being unresolved. While the landlord had initially provided information on how the resident could make an insurance claim (through its insurance team via email or phone in its separate complaint response in November 2020), it failed to address the resident’s concerns fully within its subsequent complaint responses.
  6. It is noted that as part of her escalation request, the resident had advised that she had not asked the landlord to reimburse her for the additional costs she had incurred by needing to decorate the property on multiple occasions due to the ongoing water ingress. However, given her concern that she did not feel it was appropriate for her to be paying out of her own pocket to rectify the damage caused, it would have been appropriate for the landlord to have addressed her concerns more fully and provided its insurance information. An order has been made below for the landlord to address this.
  7. In considering a landlord’s response to a complaint, the Ombudsman considers whether the landlord acted in line with the Ombudsman’s Dispute Resolution Principles; be fair, put things right and learn from outcomes. While the landlord acknowledged that no works had taken place following a contractor’s initial assessment that the roof needed to be replaced in September 2021, it failed to establish points of learning from the resident’s complaint or explain how it would prevent similar circumstances happening in the future. In addition, despite acknowledging failings, the landlord failed to offer suitable redress to the resident. An order has been made below.

Determination (decision)

  1. In accordance with paragraph 52 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, there was maladministration by the landlord in respect of its handling of an ongoing roof leak into the resident’s property.
  2. In accordance with paragraph 52 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, there was service failure by the landlord in respect of its handling of the associated complaint.

Reasons

  1. While the landlord acknowledged delays in making the resident’s property watertight between September 2021 and October 2022, it failed to fully acknowledge the impact on the resident or offer suitable redress for the distress and inconvenience caused or time and trouble she spent pursuing a resolution.
  2. The landlord acknowledged and apologised for delays at both stages of its complaints process, and the evidence suggests that it kept her somewhat updated. However, it would have been appropriate for it to have offered redress to the resident for the inconvenience caused. In addition, it failed to demonstrate that it had taken points of learning from the complaint to avoid similar failures in future.

Orders

  1. Within 4 weeks, the landlord is to write to the resident to apologise for the failures identified in this report.
  2. Within 4 weeks, the landlord is to pay the resident £700, comprised of:
    1. £500 for the distress and inconvenience caused to the resident because of the identified failings in its handling of the roof leak.
    2. £200 in recognition of the inconvenience and time and trouble spent by the resident because of the landlord’s complaint handling.
  3. Within 4 weeks, the landlord should provide the resident with details on how she can raise an insurance claim should she wish to do so for items she alleged were damaged by the water ingress, and additional costs she had incurred over the period the water ingress was ongoing. It should confirm what information the resident would need to provide for it to consider a claim.
  4. Within 4 weeks, the landlord is ordered to contact the resident and complete an inspection of the property to determine whether any remedial works are required to put right any damage caused by the water ingress into the property.
  5. Within 2 weeks of the inspection, the landlord is to write to the resident to confirm its intentions in relation to any remedial works required, including target completion dates if applicable. It should confirm whether it would complete decoration works or provide a decoration allowance to the resident so that she is able to complete this herself. If it decides not to complete or contribute to these works, it should provide assistance to her with making a claim via its liability insurers should the resident wish to pursue this further.
  6. Within 6 weeks, the landlord is ordered to carry out a management review of the resident’s case to establish points of learning and steps it could take to improve its service going forward with particular regard to roofing repairs and interim measures pending major works. A copy of this review should be provided to the Ombudsman.
  7. The landlord should reply to this Service with evidence of compliance within the timescales set out above.