LiveWest Homes Limited (202001044)

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COMPLAINT 202001044

LiveWest Homes Limited

28 September 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 the landlord’s handling of:
    1. the resident’s reports of damp in the property;
    2. concerns raised by the resident about asbestos in the property;
    3. property insulation works;
    4. the related complaint.

Background and summary of events


  1. The resident was an assured shorthold tenant. Her tenancy began on 11 March 2019 and the landlord has advised that it ended on 20 December 2020. The tenancy agreement describes the property as a one-bedroom bungalow.
  2. The landlord has confirmed that it noted the resident had a variety of health conditions from the beginning of her tenancy, including fibromyalgia, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  3. The tenancy agreement requires the landlord to keep the structure and outside of the property in repair and to maintain any installations and fixtures and fittings. It adds that it will carry out repairs within a ‘reasonable time of finding out a repair is needed’.
  4. The landlord has a repairs ‘service offer’ that shows that residents are responsible for laying new floor coverings and cleaning mould (although it notes that the landlord will conduct the first mould treatment).
  5. The landlord has an asbestos safety standard process that sets out that it will inspect properties annually, every two years or every three years depending on risk. It adds that it ‘will leave asbestos in situ unless it is at risk of damage or is damaged’ and where there is a major risk the ‘surveyor on site will isolate the area and arrange for immediate remedial works’.
  6. The landlord has a damp and mould leaflet that says it ‘will ensure that your home has adequate levels of roof insulation and cavity wall insulation’.
  7. The landlord has a complaints policy that sets out a two-stage complaints process where responses are offered within five working days (at stage one) and normally no more than seven days (at stage two). It adds that ‘some complaints may require detailed investigations’ and ‘where this is the case we will discuss this with the customer and agree the timescale in which we will respond’. It states that ‘where a complaint involves personal injury, the complaint should be referred directly to our insurers’.
  8. The landlord has an internal compensation guidance document that sets out that it will consider a financial award where it is unable to take action to put the resident back into the position they should have been in had the landlord’s service failure not occurred. It adds that any claims for loss or personal injury due to its negligence should be referred to its risk and insurance team for assessment and that it maintains liability insurance to cover such claims.
  9. Some of the resident’s concerns relate to the impact of her living conditions on her health. This Service does not have the medical expertise to draw conclusions on the causation of, or liability for, impacts on health and wellbeing. This would usually be dealt with as a personal injury claim through the courts. Nonetheless, consideration has been given to the general distress and inconvenience which the complaint may have caused the resident.

Summary of Events

  1. The landlord recorded that a technical survey occurred on 4 April 2019 when proposed insulation works were assessed. It was noted that cavity walls would be insulated apart from one wall facing a neighbouring property.
  2. The landlord’s internal records show that the resident had reported several property condition issues by 10 April 2019, including that there was black mould to the bedroom walls, loft insulation was flammable and there were carpet nails through the asbestos floor tiles. The landlord noted that the resident had told it that she was sleeping in the living room as she felt she could not unpack her belongings into the bedroom and that these items should have been checked before she moved in.
  3. The landlord recorded on 10 April 2019 that an asbestos inspector had attended the property the day before and found the tiles were in excellent condition and not damaged. It said it had removed one loose tile but found that carpets were not nailed into the tiles.
  4. The landlord wrote to the resident on 11 April 2019. It said that it had logged her concerns as a complaint.
  5. The resident wrote to the landlord on 12 April 2019. She said that she accidentally handled a couple of loose tiles as she was cleaning the bedroom cupboard, she would like a second opinion on the safety concerns and she should have been informed about the tiles before she moved in. She confirmed that there had been black mould to the bedroom cupboard wall from the point she moved in and that the property was very cold and she was concerned about chemical treatments and dust. She made a request to be placed into temporary accommodation while these issues were resolved.
  6. The landlord’s lettings team considered the resident’s comments about not being informed about the tiles prior to her moving in. It noted on 12 April 2019 that the information may have been posted to the resident but had potentially been lost (it recorded on 31 May 2019 that it had re-sent the property welcome pack to the resident).
  7. The landlord noted on 15 April 2019 that it had discussed the resident’s concerns with her, agreed to progress inspections and had offered its asbestos contractor to be present when the resident’s contractor was replacing carpets.
  8. The landlord wrote to the resident on 16 April 2019. It offered to remove the carpet and floor tiles so her contractor could fit a new carpet and said it would encapsulate the concrete floor.
  9. The landlord recorded on 17 April 2019 that its insulation contractors had attended the property on 4 April 2019 and found that 100mm of red plastic insulation needed to be removed from the loft and a new layer of 300mm should be installed. It also noted a recommendation for cavity wall insultation and that the red plastic insulation was not ‘highly flammable’ but was being replaced whenever they came across it.
  10. A damp inspection report was produced on 18 April 2019 that showed:
    1. minimal damp or mould to the bedroom cupboard
    2. a damp meter recording demonstrated possible signs of moisture
    3. potential penetrative damp was noted due to the level of ground to the external wall
    4. advice was given to the resident on ventilating the area
    5. it proposed to dry-line the wall and return if the problem continued.
  11. The resident obtained her own property survey report on 29 April 2019 (she forwarded this to the landlord on 10 May 2019). This concluded that there was a small section of the bedroom cupboard wall affected by damp with high readings indicating rising or penetrative damp. It recommended dry-lining of the wall and a new frame and flooring within the cupboard. It added that the risk from the potentially asbestos containing floor tiles was ‘negligible’.
  12. The landlord noted on 3 May 2019 that it had raised a repairs job for a wall within the bedroom cupboard to be dry-lined (it later recorded that it had completed this job on 4 June 2019).
  13. The landlord noted on 31 May 2019 that the resident reported the insulation works had been completed although the contractor had used her water supply to clean afterwards (the landlord said it would reimburse the resident £5 for water usage). It was added that the resident had not yet decided how she wished to proceed in terms of the asbestos tiles and carpeting.
  14. The landlord’s records show it considered potential flooring works to the bedroom cupboard on 5 June 2019 albeit it was concerned that these may not remedy damp completely as there was a potential external issue in the neighbour’s courtyard area. A repairs job was raised the same day for the flooring work (it later recorded that it had completed this job on 13 June 2019).
  15. The landlord made a record on 19 June 2019 that the resident had queried whether all walls had been insulated. It noted on 20 June 2019 that although all insulation extractions had been completed, refill works were still to be done.
  16. The resident wrote to the landlord on 3 July 2019. She said she had developed a rash that she attributed to asbestos in the property and she linked chemical smells in the property to breathing problems she had. She highlighted potentially damaged asbestos tiles to the bedroom and airing cupboard. She added that she had not yet proceeded with replacing the carpet and taking up the landlord’s offer to remove asbestos tiles as part of these works but, given the health developments, was now concerned whether the property was appropriate for her. She requested an independent asbestos specialist inspection and to be placed on the emergency property transfer list.
  17. The landlord noted on 4 July 2019 that it had agreed to undertake an asbestos inspection.
  18. The insulation contractor advised the landlord on 26 July 2019 that it had attended the property that day. It said that it had originally not planned to extract and refill the cavity for one wall due to access and potential disruption for a neighbour but that the resident had now changed her mind on this. It noted that the wall contained some yellow fibreglass.
  19. An asbestos report was produced on 29 July 2019. This found that:
    1. kitchen alcove tiles should be encapsulated
    2. hall, corridor, boiler cupboard, bedroom and living room tiles should be managed
    3. no action was required to the bedroom cupboard
    4. no items were regarded as being higher than ‘low risk’.
  20. The landlord noted on 30 July 2019 that the asbestos report had been completed and recommended encapsulation of a small area of exposed tiles. It added that the report had concluded there was no cause for concern.
  21. The landlord noted it had discussed the case with the resident on 6 August 2019. It recorded that she did not wish for a PVA spray encapsulation to proceed nor for the relevant tiles to be removed and instead asked for vinyl to be fitted over the top. It was added that the resident had reported that the cavity wall insulation had not gone ahead as planned because a wall accessible via a neighbour had not been included in the plan of works.
  22. The landlord noted that it spoke to the resident on 23 August 2019 and had agreed for the remaining outstanding wall to have an extraction on 11 September 2019 with the refills following on 27 September 2019. It added that it had offered either to encapsulate or to encapsulate, screed and vinyl over asbestos containing tiles and that the resident said she would consider these options.
  23. The landlord noted on 12 September 2019 that it had completed extraction of the remaining outstanding wall and noted on 25 September 2019 that the refills had been completed.
  24. The landlord noted on 9 October 2019 that it had spoken to the resident a few days earlier and she was concerned that she had seen paperwork to indicate the old insulation had contained fibreglass, she had found fibres on her possessions in the shed and the wall needed filling and painting as it was raining when the insulation contractors were on site.
  25. The landlord noted on 14 October 2019 that it had investigated the potential of fibreglass particles entering the resident’s property or shed but could not see how this would have happened as this material was extracted from a wall where there were no openings.
  26. The landlord wrote to the resident on 21 October 2019. It provided the above findings regarding the fibreglass particles but said its contractors would return to fill and paint any holes and remove any debris left in the shed.
  27. The resident wrote to the landlord on 1 November 2019. She reported that new insulation material had worked its way into her airing cupboard and that there were visible clumps of insulation in the shed. She added that the property was cold, the windows had condensation, her clothes and a violin in the bedroom cupboard had been damaged by damp and she could not relax or sleep.
  28. The landlord responded on 4 November 2019. It advised that it would chase up the insulation contractors and suggested a home visit to assess the damp issues.
  29. The resident wrote to the landlord on 14 November 2019. She reported that the insulation contractor had attended and blocked an old vent that had been allowing insulation into her airing cupboard and that he had cleaned up the cupboard and the adjoining shed. She reiterated concerns that she had come into contact with the fibreglass and that the property was cold with ongoing mould growth damaging more of her possessions. She asked for the landlord to find her somewhere else to live.
  30. The insulation contractor reported back to the landlord on 15 November 2019. It said it had spent a lot of time hoovering and cleaning and that an open cavity in the shed had been capped.
  31. The landlord recorded notes of a site visit on 19 November 2019. These showed that:
    1. it found a small amount of condensation to windows and advised the resident about use of trickle vents
    2. the heating was on and radiators warm to the touch but the thermostat was ‘clicking back on 13-15c’
    3. clothes in the bedroom wardrobe were cold and damp to the touch and walls were also cold but there was no evidence of mould
    4. the resident advised that exposure to fibreglass during the cavity wall works had caused a severe skin problem and she wanted to know who would take responsibility for this
    5. it recommended the resident obtain medical evidence to confirm the impact of her exposure to fibreglass
    6. the resident advised that the property condition had impacted her PTSD
    7. it told the resident that she did not qualify for a management move but that she should provide medical evidence to the local authority to assist with her priority banding and it could look at reimbursing her for any costs.
  32. The landlord wrote to the resident on 21 November 2019. It provided her a copy of the above inspection notes and said it would escalate her complaint.
  33. The resident wrote to the landlord on 26 November 2019. She reported that:
    1. condensation had been a major problem and the opening and closing of trickle vents and windows had made little difference to the mould growth
    2. the property did not seem to be able to hold its heat
    3. items in her wardrobe, living room and bathroom had been damaged by the mould and the lower shelving units in her kitchen had been very musty
    4. new cavity wall filling and remnants of fibre glass had been found in her airing cupboard
    5. she had found broken asbestos tiles in the wardrobe when she had moved in
    6. there had been 30 visits to assess the property and carry out repairs but the problems were still not resolved
    7. she had been told the day before that having her heating constantly on with the windows open would help to resolve the condensation issue but she could not afford to do this.
  34. The resident wrote to the landlord on 5 December 2019. She advised that she was still gathering medical evidence and queried progress on works that she thought were possible causes of damp such as blocked guttering and a potential leak causing bathroom ceiling mould. The landlord replied the same day to confirm that jobs had been raised for the two potential repairs issues (it later recorded that it cleaned the gutters on 24 December 2019 and completed lead flashing roofing works on 14 January 2020).
  35. The landlord’s records show that it replaced the thermostat in the property on 6 December 2019.
  36. The resident provided medical evidence on 10 December 2019, consisting of:
    1. a letter from the NHS dated 2 December 2019, advising that housing issues were having a detrimental impact on the resident’s mental health
    2. a letter from an acupuncturist, advising that her physical health conditions were directly linked to damp and cold and the presence of asbestos and fibreglass had contributed to anxiety and stress
    3. a letter from a GP dated 5 December 2019 that showed the resident had not suffered with skin conditions before and that pain linked to fibromyalgia had been worsened by cold living conditions
    4. a letter from a dermatologist dated 26 July 2019, showing the resident was undergoing patch testing to see what had caused her new skin conditions.
  37. The landlord wrote to the resident on 17 December 2019 as a follow up to a meeting. It advised that dehumidifiers would be provided the following day and that a small heater would be installed to her bedroom cupboard (it later recorded that it completed this installation on 9 January 2020).
  38. The landlord noted that it spoke to the resident on 20 January 2020. It recorded that the resident had reported breathing conditions that she felt the dehumidifiers had possibly worsened and that the damp was a serious problem given the moisture being collected.
  39. The landlord issued its final complaint response on 24 January 2020. It concluded that:
    1. it had checked the data from the levels of moisture captured by the dehumidifier and would not deem this to be excessive, especially if window ventilation was used
    2. it had cleaned the property following the installation of new fibreglass insulation, and offered to do so again, albeit particles may be very small and it suspected these would be unlikely to cause a health problem
    3. asbestos in the property had been removed or encapsulated but an apology was offered for any traces that were not removed during void property works and it added that a review had taken place to avoid this happening in future
    4. it believed it had completed all necessary works based on the guidance following its own inspections of the property and a report from the resident’s surveyor
    5. it had discussed with the resident in detail about potential works to improve the heating in the property
    6. its neighbourhood team would be in contact in due course to assist the resident with finding a new property.
  40. The resident wrote to the landlord on 24 January 2020. She advised that she did not feel she had been listened to as she had been told in a conversation with a member of staff that the property was cold due to the number of windows. She mentioned another couple of items that had been damaged by either mould or fibreglass and said that a damp inspection was happening that week but, in the meantime, she was sofa surfing to ensure the property did not make her more ill.
  41. The landlord wrote to the resident on 6 February 2020 to advise that she was to receive a payment that included £140 as reimbursement for seven weeks of dehumidifier use.
  42. The resident wrote to the landlord on 19 February 2020. She said that she was still dissatisfied as:
    1. she resented a suggestion that she had worsened the situation by running dehumidifiers while ventilating the property
    2. she had been exposed to fibreglass in May 2019 and found her belongings in the shed had been covered with it and the initial information that the material was rockwool had been inaccurate
    3. she asked to be recompensed for an item that had been affected by the fibreglass
    4. she believed she should have been informed about the asbestos presence before moving into the property and handling dusty items
    5. the landlord had not offered to reimburse her for items damaged by the mould and for the costs of washing clothes affected by mould
    6. the landlord had not acted quickly enough on the black mould issue, had still failed to diagnose a cause of damp and there was still a soggy wet patch to the bathroom ceiling
    7. the landlord had not made any proposal to rectify the heating problem in the property that meant it was permanently cold, particularly the flooring
    8. she would have to return to the property from March and would like the landlord to cover her costs of packing.
  43. The local authority environmental health team contacted the landlord on 21 February 2020. It said it had visited the property the day before and found that it was likely harder to heat than a standard shaped property but there were no signs of penetrative damp, no musty smell (that can accompany damp) and the carpet was dry to touch. It noted that any heat loss through the floor would not be significant and could only conclude that any damp was caused by condensation.
  44. The landlord wrote to the resident on 4 March 2020 which it said was a follow up to a meeting at the property a couple of weeks previously. It set out that:
    1. signs of rising damp – such as black mould – were not present in the property
    2. it had spoken to the local authority following their visit and they had not raised concerns
    3. it had asked the local authority to review the resident’s priority banding and ensured its housing officers will look out for potential mutual exchange properties
    4. it would only move someone if they were at imminent risk of harm and the resident did not meet this criteria.
  45. The resident wrote to the landlord on 10 March 2020. She said no mould would have been present because she regularly clears it and queried what had happened after the January 2020 damp inspection. She said that she was now back at the property which was impacting her health.
  46. A damp inspection report was produced following a visit on 11 March 2020. This was noted to be in response to reports of a drainage and cold floor report and showed that:
    1. there were no signs of damp to the carpet during the visit and the floor was dry to touch
    2. there were low damp meter recordings to the living room floor and bedroom wall plus the property did not feel particularly cold
    3. there were no signs of ‘water build’ against the walls or drainage issues in the external courtyard area
    4. the resident said that a small hole in the bathroom ceiling may have been impacted by moss of the roof (and an order would be raised to clear the roof valley)
    5. the external courtyard did not get much sunlight so the property could get cold at times and there was insufficient evidence of a drainage fault to justify a CCTV survey.
  47. A quote was produced on 16 March 2020 following an inspection of the property on 27 January 2020. This showed that there was a condensation issue because fans were not controlling humidity and recommendations were made for mould treatment, upgraded kitchen and bathroom fans and a ventilation unit to be installed in the loft. The landlord later recorded that it had been unable to obtain access to complete these works in March, July, August, September and November 2020.
  48. The resident wrote to the landlord on 8 May 2020. She updated it on her medical conditions and reported that the local authority had not increased her priority banding sufficiently (despite the medical evidence).
  49. The landlord wrote to the resident on 19 May 2020. It advised that an inspection in March 2020 had determined there was no obvious sign of damp or mould in the carpets, walls or floors and did not establish any drainage issues. It noted that any issues with the housing priority banding would need to be taken up with the local authority.
  50. The landlord wrote to the resident on 13 November 2020. It said it wished to summarise the discussions that had been ongoing about a management move and advised that:
    1. it could not offer a management move to the resident as her circumstances were not exceptional to the extent that she should be prioritised above other housing applicants and it had not received strong medical evidence from a statutory agency as had been requested
    2. it had arranged specialist tests that showed asbestos tiles in the property were safe but had nevertheless arranged to encapsulate or remove the tiles and conducted a professional clean
    3. it had removed and replaced cavity wall and loft insulation following a report from the resident that the property was not well insulated and had subsequently arranged a deep clean
    4. although it had only identified a damp issue to the bedroom cupboard, it had dry-lined an external wall, fitted an insulation sheet below the cupboard, fitted a tubular heater and cover, replaced door and window seals and installed a new thermostat
    5. further inspection reports had confirmed there was not a damp problem and the local authority environmental health team had found the same
    6. an inspection had been undertaken recently and actions recommended but the resident had refused these
    7. it had liaised with the local authority and made initial enquiries about potential mutual exchanges to assist the resident with a move.
  51. The resident wrote to the landlord on 2 December 2020. She countered the landlord’s comments by advising that:
    1. it is inaccurate that the asbestos containing tiles were undisturbed and she had unwittingly handled broken tiles in the bedroom cupboard and airing cupboard plus the landlord had not arranged a professional clean
    2. there had been a delay of several months in removing fibreglass from the shed following insulation works and some fibreglass material had spread onto her possessions through a hole in the airing cupboard
    3. the landlord had finally attended to the damp bedroom cupboard but this was delayed by months, her possessions had been damaged and her clothes in the cupboard and drawers still got damp, despite the heater installation
    4. she had not been compensated for any damaged items
    5. the landlord had not renewed all window and door seals and the new thermostat did not work
    6. although the damp issue did not meet the local authority’s criteria for further action, it was a problem and had exacerbated her health conditions and caused new ones
    7. she wished for the landlord to undertake the damp specialist inspection as it was only a chemical treatment that she had refused
    8. the presence of a colony of seagulls had caused a noise nuisance and further impacted her health
    9. she had submitted a report about her health in August 2020
    10. following a suspected heart attack a few weeks earlier, she had felt forced to move into private rented accommodation.

Assessment and findings

  1. In reaching a decision we consider whether the landlord has kept to the law, followed proper procedure and good practice, and acted in a reasonable way. Our duty is to determine complaints by reference to what is, in this Service’s opinion, fair in all the circumstances of the case.


  1. The resident reported damp to her property from the beginning of her tenancy. She referred to not being able to use her bedroom and that mould growth had impacted this room, especially a built-in cupboard. The landlord initially responded to this concern by conducting a damp inspection in April 2019. This established minimal mould growth or damp but recommended dry-lining works which were completed the following month. This was a reasonable response to the resident’s concerns – the landlord made a damp assessment within a month of the resident moving in and completed related works within a further month.
  2. The resident obtained her own damp inspection and passed it to the landlord in May 2019. As a result, the landlord completed further works to the bedroom cupboard in June 2019, installing a new flooring frame. This demonstrated that, although the landlord had completed the works its own surveyor recommended, it was willing to conduct additional works proposed by the resident – this was a reasonable and resolution-focused approach.
  3. The resident’s private survey and the landlord’s own damp inspection suggested a potential issue with water ingress to the bedroom cupboard area. It is of concern that the landlord did not continue investigations after June 2019 to establish whether there was a penetrative damp issue. However, further visits to the property by, or on behalf of, the landlord in November 2019, January 2020 and March 2020, as well as by the local authority in February 2020, did not demonstrate a significant mould problem or any sign of penetrative or rising damp. There is therefore no evidence that the landlord was obliged to complete any damp-related works beyond those it completed in June 2019.
  4. Nevertheless, the landlord took further steps to alleviate the impact of condensation by providing, and paying for, dehumidifiers from December 2019 and installing a heater to the cupboard in January 2020. These actions demonstrate that the landlord remained willing to assist the resident in reducing the impact of what was later concluded to be a condensation issue.
  5. The landlord also completed related works such as a guttering clearance and lead flashing repairs within a reasonable timescale during December 2019 to January 2020. In both instances, the landlord recorded that it carried out works within six weeks of the repair report which was a reasonable timescale given the need for scaffolding.
  6. The landlord obtained its latest damp inspection report in March 2020 that reiterated the conclusion that any damp in the property was due to condensation and recommended mould treatment and ventilation improvement works. The landlord’s records indicate that it attempted to gain access on several occasions to carry out these works and the resident confirmed in December 2020 that she had not wished the landlord to complete chemical treatment works. Evidence seen by this Service does not show whether the resident explained what works she was, and was not, willing to allow prior to December 2020 so it is unclear if the landlord was given an opportunity to propose alternative works before the resident ended her tenancy.
  7. The resident made requests to be moved into temporary accommodation or to new permanent accommodation, partly due to the damp issue. However, it was reasonable for the landlord to rely on the outcomes of inspections by professionally qualified staff. None of the inspections completed by the landlord, the resident’s surveyor or the local authority demonstrated that there was loss of use of a room or an obligation for the landlord to move the resident on health and safety grounds.
  8. In summary, the landlord conducted inspections in April 2019, November 2019, January 2020 and March 2020 in response to the resident’s damp reports. These were in addition to the resident’s private contractor inspection in May 2019 and local authority findings in February 2020. None of these diagnosed penetrative or rising damp and the landlord took reasonable steps to complete recommended works to the bedroom cupboard and reduce the impact of condensation.


  1. The resident reported concerns about asbestos containing materials in her property from the beginning of her tenancy. It is of concern that the landlord was unable to evidence what information it provided to the resident prior to the commencement of her tenancy, meaning it had to re-send information the following month. However, its initial response to her concerns upon moving in was to arrange for an inspection of the property on 9 April 2019 which addressed the resident’s reports that some asbestos tiles were not in a good condition and had been damaged by carpet nails.
  2. The landlord’s actions in inspecting the resident’s property to check the condition of asbestos containing tiles within a few weeks of the tenancy starting was a reasonable approach. This led to the removal of one loose tile with a finding that the tiles were in excellent condition. The landlord’s initial assessment that there was no health and safety risk from the asbestos containing tiles was supported by the resident’s own surveyor who also concluded in April 2019 that the risk from the floor tiles was ‘negligible’.
  3. Nevertheless, the resident continued to raise concerns about asbestos. In response, the landlord offered for its contractors to remove a carpet and tiles and remain on site while the resident laid a new carpet. Given the landlord had already established that it was of the view that there were no safety concerns and it was not responsible for carpets, it was reasonable and resolution-focused of it to reassure the resident by offering to remove asbestos containing materials and co-operate in the installation of a new floor covering.
  4. The resident made requests for a second opinion on the asbestos issue. The landlord arranged for a full property asbestos inspection in July 2019 which confirmed that there were no asbestos containing materials in the property that represented either a medium or high risk. This demonstrated that the landlord’s initial findings in April 2019 were accurate. Its approach to continue to offer reassurance to the resident by conducting a full property inspection was appropriate.
  5. Following the July 2019 inspection, the landlord made an offer to encapsulate a section of flooring – this was in line with the inspection recommendations and therefore appropriate. The resident expressed concerns with this proposal, apparently on the grounds of the use of chemicals in the encapsulation process. The landlord therefore made an offer in August 2019 to lay vinyl over the encapsulated floor – these actions were again beyond its repairs obligations and demonstrated it was pro-active in its attempts to ease the resident’s concerns. It is unclear if the resident took up this offer but there is no evidence that she raised continued safety concerns about the asbestos after September 2019.
  6. The resident made requests to be moved into temporary accommodation or to new permanent accommodation, partly due to the asbestos issue. The resident evidently experienced genuine distress over an extended period at the presence of asbestos in the property. However, it was reasonable for the landlord to rely on the outcomes of inspections by professionally qualified staff. Neither of the inspections completed by the landlord showed that there was a current health and safety risk due to asbestos and there was therefore no obligation for the landlord to move the resident.
  7. In summary, the landlord took reasonable steps to investigate the resident’s concerns about asbestos in the property. It undertook two inspections, including a full property survey, and made repeated offers to the resident to either remove asbestos containing materials or assist her with covering over them.


  1. The landlord was aware in April 2019 that it needed to renew cavity wall insulation and replace a layer of insulation in the loft. Although the extraction of the old insulation had been completed by the end of May 2019, it was not until the end of September 2019 that the new insulation was installed. Some of this delay was a result of a change in the scope of works caused by the addition of a wall that had not initially been part of the proposal but the period of five months did represent an unreasonable delay.
  2. The resident raised a further concern in October 2019 that she had been mis-advised on the insulation material and that fibres had been left on her possessions in a shed and airing cupboard. Although it is unclear from the evidence seen by this Service what information the resident was given about the presence of fibreglass at the time of the works, it is not disputed that the landlord’s contractors had to return to the property in November 2019 to block points of entry into the shed and airing cupboard and conduct a clean. Given the resident’s health conditions and the anxiety she had already expressed on this matter, it would have been appropriate for the landlord to ensure that the insulation works were post-inspected and that care was taken to avoid her possessions coming into contact with the insulation materials – its failure to do so was unreasonable.
  3. The resident raised related concerns from the start of her tenancy that the property did not retain heat and suggested this may be contributing to damp. Although the landlord finished re-insulating the property in November 2019 and replaced a thermostat in December 2019, there is no evidence that it conducted assessments of the heating performance or energy efficiency of the property beyond a visit by complaints staff in November 2019 that simply found that radiators were warm to touch. This was unreasonable, particularly given the resident had advised it how her health could be exacerbated by cold conditions. It is of concern that there is no evidence that the landlord took the resident’s vulnerability into account in regard to her reports that the property was cold.
  4. The resident made requests to be moved into temporary accommodation or to new permanent accommodation, partly due to the insulation issue. However, by the time the resident had provided medical evidence in December 2019, its contractors had already returned to the property to clear away fibreglass and block potential points of entry. The medical evidence did not demonstrate that the fibreglass issue was causing health problems for the resident and the landlord was therefore under no obligation to move the resident to alternative accommodation.
  5. In summary, the landlord delayed in the installation of new insulation to cavity walls and failed to take sufficient steps to avoid insulation materials coming into contact with the resident’s possessions in the shed and airing cupboard. It also failed to consider the resident’s circumstances by assessing whether there were any further actions it could take to address her reports that the property was cold.

Complaint handling

  1. The landlord initially noted that it had logged a complaint from the resident on 11 April 2019. However, it failed to offer any response at stage one of its complaints process. Although it remained in consistent contact with the resident, discussing her concerns at least a few times each month to November 2019, it was inappropriate that it failed to offer a full response to her complaint and that it did not discuss a timescale for a response with her as its policy required.
  2. The landlord advised the resident in November 2019 that it would escalate her complaint to the final stage of its complaints process but it failed to offer the response until late January 2020. This was outside of its complaints policy timescale of no more than seven days and was again inappropriate, particularly given it had failed to issue a stage one response.
  3. Although the landlord made financial awards to the resident (to reimburse her for water and dehumidifier costs for instance), it consistently failed to respond to her allegations that her health and possessions had been damaged by a combination of the damp, asbestos and insulation issues. The landlord’s complaints and compensation procedures set out that it should refer claims like this to its insurers but no evidence has been seen by this Service to indicate that this happened at any point during the complaints process nor that it signposted the resident accordingly – this was inappropriate.
  4. There were also aspects of the resident’s complaint that the resident failed to investigate and respond to. For example, she raised concerns during the complaints process that the landlord was aware of a damp problem at the property prior to her moving in and that it had left exposed asbestos in the property after void works. Although the landlord apologised for the latter, there is no evidence that it investigated or made substantive responses to these issues. This was inappropriate and meant that the landlord failed to answer key aspects of the resident’s complaint.
  5. In summary, the landlord failed to respond to the resident’s initial complaint and delayed in answering the escalated complaint. It also failed to address some aspects of the complaint and did not direct the resident to the appropriate recourse for her claims about personal injury and damaged possessions.


  1. In accordance with paragraph 54 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, there was no maladministration by the landlord in its handling of:
    1. the resident’s reports of damp in the property;
    2. concerns raised by the resident about asbestos in the property.
  2. In accordance with paragraph 54 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, there was service failure by the landlord in its handling of:
    1. property insulation works;
    2. the related complaint.


  1. The landlord took reasonable steps to investigate the resident’s reports of damp to the property and to complete the follow-on works that were recommended by its inspections.
  2. The landlord responded appropriately to the resident’s asbestos concerns by inspecting the property and taking steps to comply with the resulting recommendations and accommodating the resident’s requests to assist with the installation of new floor coverings.
  3. The landlord delayed in renewing cavity wall insulation and had to return to the property after works were completed to block points where insulation materials had come into contact with the resident’s possessions. It also failed to consider the resident’s vulnerability or undertake appropriate investigations in response to the resident’s reports that the property was cold.
  4. The landlord delayed unreasonably in responding to the resident’s complaint over a period of nine months and failed to address all aspects of the complaint.


  1. The landlord to write to the resident to:
    1. apologise to her for the service failures identified in this report;
    2. advise her how she can go about making a liability claim for personal injury and damage to her possessions while she lived at the property.
  2. The landlord to pay the resident compensation of £400, comprised of:
    1. £225 in recognition of the distress and inconvenience caused to her by the failures in its handling of property insulation works;
    2. £175 in recognition of the inconvenience and time and trouble caused to her by its complaint handling failures.

The landlord should confirm compliance with these orders to this Service within four weeks of the date of this report.


  1. The landlord to review its procedures to ensure it produces heating performance reports when residents report that their property is cold in future.
  2. The landlord to review its tenancy sign up process to ensure it can evidence the information about asbestos that it provides to residents prior to them moving into new properties.

The landlord should confirm its intentions in regard to these recommendations to this Service within four weeks of the date of this report.