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Hyde Housing Association Limited (202000411)

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REPORT

COMPLAINT 202000411

Hyde Housing Association Limited

30 June 2021


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. This complaint is about:
    1. The landlord’s response to the resident’s reports of water ingress in her lounge in 2018.
    2. The landlord’s refusal to consider the resident’s complaint of 4 April 2020 about the level of compensation it had offered in response to her complaint about the water ingress in her lounge in 2018.

Jurisdiction

  1. What we can and cannot consider is called the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. This is governed by the Housing Ombudsman Scheme. When a complaint is brought to the Ombudsman, we must consider all the circumstances of the case as there are sometimes reasons why a complaint will not be investigated.
  2. Paragraph 39(a) of the Scheme states that the Ombudsman will not investigate complaints which, in the Ombudsman’s opinion are made prior to 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.
  3. On 11 March 2018, the resident logged a formal complaint with the landlord regarding a number of repairs issues, including a water leak in her lounge. The resident said the previous year the developer had painted over a damp patch in the same area but the damp had returned. The resident said that both the landlord and the developer had ignored her emails about rectifying the matter and had made no contact with regards to further investigation.
  4. At the time of the resident’s complaint, on 11 March 2018, the landlord had a four stage complaints process. An informal Stage 0 and three formal stages, the third of which (the Final Review) would be the landlord’s final response.
  5. Following the completion of repair works on 2 October 2018, the landlord issued its response to the resident’s complaint on 15 October 2018. The landlord offered the resident a total of £200 compensation, made up of £100 for the distress and inconvenience caused whilst the leak was fixed and £100 for the time and trouble taken to resolve the issue.
  6. After carefully considering all the evidence, in accordance with paragraph 39(a)  of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, the resident’s complaint about the landlord’s response to her reports of water ingress in her lounge in 2018 is outside of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.
  7. This is because the landlord provided a stage 1 response on 15 October 2018 and the resident did not pursue the complaint at the time by asking for an escalation to the next stage of the landlord’s complaints process. The complaint therefore has not exhausted the landlord’s complaints process as the resident did not raise her dissatisfaction with the landlord’s response by asking for an escalation within 6 months of the landlord’s stage one response.

Background and summary of events

The landlord’s refusal to consider the resident’s complaint of 4 April 2020 about the

level of compensation it had offered in response to her complaint about the

water ingress in her lounge in 2018.

  1. The resident is a shared ownership leaseholder of the landlord. The lease commenced on 9 September 2015.
  2. On 2 January 2019, the resident’s solicitor served the landlord with a Letter of Claim – Housing Disrepair Matter (Damages only claim). The claim included matters relating the water ingress in the resident’s lounge in 2016 and 2018. The most recent correspondence seen by this service, between the landlord and the resident’s solicitors regarding her disrepair claim, is dated 4 February 2020. The resident has since confirmed that she did not pursue legal proceedings.
  3. On 4 April 2020, the resident logged a formal complaint with the landlord. A copy of this complaint has not been seen by this service. However, in her Web complaint to this service on 21 April 2020, the resident explained that her complaint related to her claim for compensation from the landlord in respect of its response to a damp patch above her lounge patio doors in 2016 and further water ingress on 14 February 2018. The resident said that in October 2018 the landlord offered her £200 compensation which she described as ‘‘derisory’’ as it did not cover her costs, such as holiday from work to be at home for appointments, stress and worry about water coming into her lounge every time it rained. The resident said that she instructed a solicitor to seek damages but was bringing her complaint to this service due to the cost of taking the matter to court.
  4. The landlord issued its first and final response to the resident’s complaint on 15 April 2020. The landlord said that it had decided not to log a new complaint for the following reasons:
    1. The complaint was managed in 2018, under reference 2859677, compensation was offered but declined by the resident and its policy states that it does not re-open complaints about the same issue after 6 months of the closure.
    2. The resident’s case was now deemed as a legal case being managed by its solicitors and would need to be managed as such.
    3. That its disrepair solicitor had confirmed that the alleged defects were covered by the NHBS warranty, for which the resident had already submitted a claim and as such she could not seek compensation twice.
  5. The landlord said that it was however happy to re-offer the resident the £200 compensation offered in its response of 15 October 2018, which the resident had previously declined. The landlord said that it understood that the resident would be disappointed with its stance, however there was ‘‘no benefit in raising a new complaint about the same issue, as this would not change our final decision or outcome’’. The landlord said that it was unaware of any correspondence that had not been responded to by its solicitor, however, should this be the case, it would recommend that the resident’s solicitor follow this up. The landlord ended by advising the resident that, if she remained dissatisfied with its decision, she could contact this service.

Assessment and findings

  1. The Ombudsman’s role is to consider whether the landlord responded appropriately to the resident’s concerns by adhering to its policies, procedures, and any agreements with the resident, and that the landlord behaved reasonably, taking account of what is fair in all the circumstances of the case.
  2. Having considered the evidence I am satisfied that it was reasonable for the landlord to refuse to consider the resident’s complaint of 4 April 2020, about the level of compensation she was offered in its response  dated 15 October 2018, under its formal complaints procedure.
  3. Section 3.5 of the landlord’s complaints policy states that the landlord will not investigate a complaint about a specific incident or service failure that occurred over 6 months prior to the complaint being made. As the resident’s complaint on 4 April 2020 related to compensation offered by the landlord in its response of 15 October 2018, 18 months earlier, it was reasonable, and in accordance with its policies and procedures, for the landlord to refuse to consider the resident’s new complaint under its formal complaints process.
  4. At the time of the resident’s complaint the landlord stated that the matters raised in the resident’s complaint were the subject of a legal case being managed by its solicitors. The resident has subsequently advised this service that she is no longer pursuing the case. However, at the time of the resident’s complaint in April 2020, as the landlord considered there to be an open legal case and it was reasonable for it to also refuse to consider the resident’s complaint under Section 2.1 of its complaints policy. Section 2.1 stating that complaints made by residents where legal action is in progress will not be considered under its complaints process.
  5. Whilst it was not obliged to, and in order seek a resolution to the complaint, the landlord reoffered the resident the £200 it had originally offered in its response of 15 October 2018.

Determination (decision)

  1. In accordance with paragraph 54 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme there was no maladministration by the landlord in respect of its refusal to consider the resident’s complaint of 4 April 2020 about the level of compensation it had offered in response to a previous complaint about the water ingress in her lounge in 2018.

Reasons

  1. The landlord’s complaints policy states that it will not consider complaints that are not brought to its attention within 6 months of the matter occurring. In its complaint response on 15 October 2018, the landlord offered the resident £200 compensation. The resident did not seek to make a formal complaint about the level of compensation offered until 4 April 2020, 18 months later.
  2. The landlord’s complaints policy also states that it will not consider complaints that are subject to legal proceedings. Whilst the resident has said that she is no longer pursuing a legal case, at the time of landlord’s response of 15 April 2020 the landlord considered there to be an open legal case and as such it was reasonable to the landlord to refuse to consider the resident’s complaint on that basis.

Recommendation

  1. That if it has not done so already that the landlord again reoffer the resident the £200 it had originally offered in its response of 15 October 2018.