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London Borough of Ealing (202004589)

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REPORT

COMPLAINT 202004589

Ealing Council

11 January 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 the landlord’s:

  1. Response to the resident’s reports of leaks at the property.
  2. Response to the resident’s request for compensation for damaged possessions.
  3. Response to the resident’s reports of noise coming from the plumbing in the flat upstairs.
  4. Response to the resident’s concerns that her husband was not able to discuss repair issues with the landlord.
  5. Response to the resident’s request for a copy of an asbestos report.
  6. Response to the resident’s concerns about a potential GDPR breach.
  7. Complaints handling.

Jurisdiction

2.     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.

3.     After carefully considering all the evidence, in accordance with paragraph 42 (K) of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, the following aspect of the complaint is outside of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction: the landlord’s response to the resident’s concerns about a potential GDPR breach.

4.     The resident’s husband was telephoned by an asbestos specialist in April 2021 and subsequently complained to the landlord that it had passed their telephone number to the asbestos specialist.

5.     Paragraph 42 (k) of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme says that “The Ombudsman may not consider complaints which, in the Ombudsman’s opinion fall properly within the jurisdiction of another Ombudsman, regulator or complaint-handling body.”

6.     The resident’s complaint about the landlord’s handling of her concerns about GDPR is a matter which properly falls within the jurisdiction of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). This aspect of the complaint is therefore outside of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. The other aspects of the complaint are considered below.

Background and summary of events

7.     At the time of the complaint the resident was a secure tenant of a one bedroom sixth floor flat owned and managed by the local authority landlord. The resident lived in the property with her husband and child. On 31 May 2021 she and her husband were rehoused in another property due to the regeneration of the estate. The landlord has no recorded vulnerabilities for the resident.

8.     The landlord’s repairs handbook says that it will respond to routine repairs within 20 working days.

9.     The landlord’s website says that it is only responsible for insuring the structure of a resident’s property and that residents are responsible for any loss or damage to their belongings through theft, fire, flooding or accident. Whilst the landlord does not insure residents’ contents, residents may obtain household insurance through a special scheme arranged by the landlord.

10. The landlord’s Housing and Regeneration guidance on compensation payments says that when assessing the amount of any compensation award the landlord should consider all relevant factors including the level of stress, anxiety, inconvenience, frustration, worry, uncertainty and inconvenience cause to the complainant. The guidance says that the landlord may offer discretionary compensation for service failure or maladministration of up to £1000.

11. At the time of the complaint the landlord had a three stage complaints procedure.

12. Paragraph 5.1 of the Ombudsman’s Complaints Handling Code says that landlord’s must respond to a complaint within 10 working days of the complaint being logged.

13. Paragraph 5.13 of the Ombudsman’s complaint handling code says that landlords must respond to the stage two complaint within 20 working days of the complaint being escalated.

14. Paragraph 5.18 of the Ombudsman’s complaint handling code says that where a third stage is in place and has been requested, landlords must respond to the stage three complaint within 20 working days of the complaint being escalated

15. In December 2019 the resident reported a leak in the property to the landlord which she thought was coming from the flat above the property (“the upstairs flat”)  and on 23 December 2019 the landlord logged a job to attend both properties to repair the leak . The landlord attended both properties on 24 December 2019 and determined that the leak was being caused by the residents in the upstairs flat spilling water whilst using their bath.

16. On 8 January 2020 the resident contacted the landlord to report that the wall in the bathroom at the property was wet and the wet patch continued into the room housing the gas and electric meters.

17. The landlord attended the upstairs flat on 14 January 2020 and discovered that the overflow to the bath had come away. On 20 January 2020 the landlord reconnected the overflow to the bath.

18. On 20 January 2020 the resident made a complaint to the landlord about:

  1. Its response to her reports of a leak.
  2. Damage to her belongings from the leak.
  3. Despite informing the landlord previously that it could talk to her husband about repair issues, the landlord had refused to do so.

19. On 29 January 2020 the resident contacted the landlord to report that the bathroom wall was still wet. The landlord attended the upstairs flat on 3 February 2020 and noted that no leak was found.

20. On 10 February 2020 the resident sent a request to the landlord for information about the date of the most recent asbestos survey in the building and whether any asbestos had been found, how dangerous the level was and how it was dealt with.

21. On 12 February 2020 the resident contacted her local councillor saying that the leak hadn’t been fixed and the walls were still wet. The landlord then raised an inspection for its surveyor to attend and assess the condition of the bathroom.

22. On 19 February 2020 the resident made a further report to the landlord about the leak.

23. On 27 February 2020 the landlord responded to the resident’s request for information about asbestos with details about a survey of the building in 2014 and that in June 2019 an asbestos survey had been carried out in the flat next door to the resident’s. The survey had found very low levels of asbestos in textured ceiling coatings and kitchen sink pads.

24. On 28 February 2020 the landlord sent its stage one complaint response to the resident. In its complaint response the landlord said:

  1. Following her reports of a leak in December 2019 the landlord had attended the property on 24 December 2019 and found no leak in the property and its operative had reported that the leak might have been caused by overspill of water on the bathroom floor in the upstairs flat. The operative’s report had said that there was no visible leak found in the property but damp patches on the bathroom wall and ceiling. The landlord apologised that the resident was not informed of this outcome at the time.
  2. On 8 January 2020 a further job was raised, and the landlord attended the flat upstairs on 14 January 2020. The operative found the bath overflow had been removed and repairs were completed on 20 January 2020.
  3. On 29 January 2020 the leak was again reported. The landlord had attended the flat upstairs on 3 February 2020. No leaks were found but the landlord’s operative advised that the leak could be due to the resident in the upstairs flat  allowing water to overspill onto the floor, or there could have been an issue in the boiler room. The landlord said that it had asked that the relevant department to investigate any potential leaks from the boiler room.
  4. That its tenancy management team had contacted the upstairs neighbour in relation to the recent leak and advised him that he should take reasonable care in order not to cause damage to the property.
  5. Its tenancy management team had informed the upstairs neighbour that should there be any further occurrences of leaks, the cause of the leak would be investigated fully, and that the matter would be escalated should the neighbour be at fault.
  6. It had asked its tenancy management team to issue a further letter to the upstairs neighbour and should any further leaks occur within the next 12 months further action would be taken against the neighbour.
  7. Should no leaks be found coming from the boiler room and the leak persisted; a joint inspection would be raised for its surveyor and plumber to attend the property and the upstairs flat.
  8. It could see that the resident had sent an email to the landlord on 3 August 2018 granting her husband permission to discuss repair issues with the landlord. It apologised that its repairs customer service team had refused to speak to the resident’s husband and it had highlighted this to the relevant manager.
  9. It was not the landlord’s responsibility to reimburse residents for damage to their personal possessions. Any damage to the resident’s belongings because of the leak would have to be claimed through the resident’s content’s insurance.

25. The landlord carried out an inspection of the property and the upstairs flat on 10 March 2020. A section of bath tiles were found to be loose in the upstairs flat and letting water through into the resident’s flat. On 11 March 2020 the landlord renewed the tiles and reapplied sealant around the bath.

26. On 28 March 2020 the Government issued guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities concerning the Covid 19 pandemic. The guidance recommended that access to a property was only proposed for serious and urgent repairs.

27. The resident says that on 20 May 2020 she sent the landlord, via a councillor, recordings of noises coming from the upstairs flat’s plumbing. The resident subsequently sent recordings via the landlord’s twitter page.

28. On 1 June 2020 the Government issued updated guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities concerning the Covid 19 pandemic. The guidance said that landlords “can now take steps to address wider issues of repairs and safety inspections, provided these are undertaken in line with public health advice” and that “Where workforce is available and resources allow, landlords or contractors are now able to visit most properties to carry out both routine and essential inspections and repairs, as well as any planned internal works.”

29. On 12 June 2020 the resident’s downstairs neighbour reported a further leak to the landlord. The landlord inspected the property on 15 June 2020 and found that the leak was coming from or into the boiler cupboard and potential asbestos was identified.

30. Also on 12 June 2020 the resident sent the landlord an email saying that earlier that day the landlord’s repairs service had again refused to speak to her husband and said that there was no note on the system saying that her husband could  discuss repair issues with the landlord.

31. Following an enquiry from this Service on 19 August 2020 about the status of the resident’s complaint about the leak the landlord wrote to the resident on 9 September 2020 saying that it had responded to the complaint on 28 February 2020 and the resident had not contacted it further about the leak.

32. The resident responded to the landlord on 9 September 2020 saying that she had been in regular contact with the landlord about her complaint since February 2020. She said that the landlord’s complaint response had not bought closure to the complaint or dealt with many points she had raised. She said that as a minimum she would like to escalate her complaint further.

33. On 3 October 2020 the landlord’s complaints team sent an internal email saying that no escalation or communication from the resident had been seen by it, however it was now aware that the resident had been corresponding with a member of the landlord’s staff since it had issued its stage one response in February 2020. The resident was saying that that the leak coming from the upstairs flat still persisted and the landlord wasn’t clear whether it had “ever sent a surveyor to inspect as in the S1 response we seem to be leaving that to the neighbour to resolve in the first instance. In the email the landlord asked that it look into what it could do and contact the resident and said that it had not logged the complaint at stage 2 as it thought that there was a chance that it could be resolved without the need of doing that.

34. The landlord’s surveyor visited the property in October 2020 and identified that repairs were needed to replace the water tank at the property, encapsulation of the soil stack and asbestos removal to enable these repairs to be carried out. The works were scheduled to begin on 8 December 2020.

35. On 20 November 2020 the resident made a further asbestos information request to the landlord asking for the results of any asbestos surveys carried out in any flats in the building. The landlord responded with details of survey information which it said was available for three flats in the building and said that it had not carried out surveys to all the flats in the building.

36. On 8 December 2020 the landlord’s contractors mistakenly attended the wrong property. Once the repairs commenced the resident was left for a number of days with intermittent hot water and heating and experienced a further leak due to damage caused by the asbestos contractor, which resulted in an emergency out of hours visit from the heating contractor to stop the leak.

37. On 17 December 2020 the landlord sent an internal email saying that “if the residents had made a formal complaint they would be due approx. £250.00 for the delays & inconvenience. I will ask [member of landlord’s staff] by way of this email to credit the residents rent account with this amount.

38. On 8 January 2021 the resident sent an email to the landlord saying that it had not received any compensation for the inconvenience they had experienced during the repair works. The resident also said that:

  1. There had been damage to the decoration in the property (the coating had been ripped off a kitchen chair and patches of wallpaper had been torn).
  2. The cold from the window being open for the asbestos removal equipment had caused problems in the property and she was now dealing with extreme amounts of mould, damp and condensation on a daily basis.

39. On 11 January 2021 the landlord sent an email to the resident acknowledging her email dated 8 January 2021 and saying that she would be contacted by its complaints team.

40. On 2 February 2021 the resident informed this Service that she had still not received the escalated complaint response to her complaint or the £250 compensation offered by the landlord in December 2020.

41. On 15 February 2021 this Service wrote to the landlord asking that the resident’s complaint be escalated to the next stage of the landlord’s complaints process and a response provided.

42. On 2 March 2021 the resident reported hearing loud vibrating noises from the plumbing in the upstairs flat. The landlord attended both the resident’s flat and the flat upstairs on 17 March 2021. During the visit the landlord’s operative noted that, after running taps in both properties he heard no sound, and that both households believed the sound to be originating from the other property. The job was subsequently closed.

43. On 11, 17 and 19 March 2021 the resident sent emails to the landlord explaining that she had still not received a stage two response to her complaint. The resident also provided details of health problems she was having that she said were related to the stress of constantly having to chase the landlord for responses and for it to address the noise coming from the upstairs flat’s plumbing.

44. The resident telephoned the landlord on 24 March 2021 to report the vibrating sound again. The landlord says that it attempted to book an appointment with the upstairs flat but the upstairs resident insisted that there was no sound from their property and it cancelled the job.

45. On 7 April 2021 the resident’s husband sent the landlord recordings of the noise from the pipes, saying that he had previously sent these to the landlord.

46. On 26 April 2021 and again on 18 May 2021 this Service wrote to the landlord requesting that the landlord respond to the resident’s complaint within the next 5 working days.

47. On 30 April 2021 the landlord spoke to the resident about her outstanding complaints and the resident sent the landlord an email the same day with details of her complaint, starting with her reports of the leak in December 2019. The resident also requested a copy of the report from an asbestos survey carried out at the property in 2017 and explained that her husband still had difficulty speaking to the landlord about repairs.

48. On 10 May 2021 the resident again telephoned the landlord to report the vibrating sound in the pipes.

49. On 30 May 2021 the landlord permanently decanted the resident from the property.

50. On 4 June 2021 this Service issued a Complaint Handling Failure Order to the landlord.

51. The landlord sent the resident its stage two complaint response on 9 June 2021. In its response the landlord:

  1. Apologised for the delay in providing its complaint response.
  2. Said that it had been unable to locate an email specifically escalating the resident’s original stage one complaint of 21 January 2020, and it understood that the leak referred to in the original stage one complaint was different to the leak referred to in the escalation request. Whilst it would normally treat this as a separate issue with a new stage one complaint, it recognised the significant delays she had experienced in receiving a response, and therefore was responding to the complaint as a stage two escalation.
  3. In respect of the complaint about the noise from the plumbing in the upstairs flat, although there had been some time elapsed since the problem was first reported, and it remained outstanding, these types of issues could take significant time to identify and resolve. It therefore did not believe there had been a service failure and did not uphold the complaint.
  4. It explained that during the Covid 19 pandemic its repairs service only responded to emergency issues for nine months and this had resulted in a significant backlog of repairs.
  5. It understood that the leak in the boiler cupboard was first reported on 12 June 2020. A job was raised for an operative to attend the same day and remedy the leak, however on attendance the operative noted the presence of what they believed was asbestos containing materials in panels in the airing cupboard. Unfortunately, it was not until the end of October 2020, following calls from the resident chasing for an update, that the repair was progressed, when the landlord’s surveyor attended the property and identified the need to coordinate three sets of contractors to carry out the repair. Contractors were booked to attend on 8 December 2020. Unfortunately, due to a breakdown of communication with its contractors, they first attended the flat below, causing a delay to the start of works. Once the repairs commenced the resident was left for days with intermittent hot water and heating and experienced a further leak due to damage caused by the asbestos contractor. The landlord upheld this aspect of the complaint, apologised for the poor service the resident had experienced and increased the amount of compensation offered to £350.

52. On 10 June 2021 the resident asked to escalate her complaint to stage three of the landlord’s complaints procedure as:

  1. Many of the issues she had complained about had not been addressed in the landlord’s stage two response.
  2. The compensation offered was insufficient.
  3. She had asked, given the asbestos found in the property, for the results of the asbestos survey carried out in the property in 2017 and this had not been referred to in the landlord’s stage two response.
  4. Her husband was still experiencing issues about being allowed to speak to the landlord about repair issues.
  5. The landlord’s plumber had told them in 2019 that there was no leak and unknown to her had closed the job leaving her with long term damp/mould/pest issues. The plumber had later thrown about panelling, thought to contain asbestos to look for the leak.
  6. The landlord had said in its stage two response that the resident had first reported the noises in the plumbing on 2 March 2021, but the resident had first reported this to the landlord on 20 May 2020.

53. The landlord acknowledged the escalation request on 14 June 2020 and said it aimed to provide its response by 8 July 2021.

54. On 8 July 2021 the landlord sent an email to the resident saying that it hoped to respond to the complaint by 22 July 2021.

55. On 22 July 2021 the landlord sent the resident its stage three complaint response. In its response the landlord said that:

  1. Its handling of the complaint fell below the standards it expected and it apologised for this.
  2. The stage two response was based on the summary of the resident’s complaint provided by this Service to the landlord, and it recognised that the resident had provided supplementary information that should have been considered and formed the basis of the stage two investigation and response and it apologised for the failure to do this. The landlord said that the supplementary information had been fully considered in the stage three response.
  3. In order to ensure that casework was properly recorded to avoid inaccuracies in complaint responses the landlord was launching a new online portal for residents to log, respond to or check on the progress of their enquiries. This should result in fewer instances of casework and agreed actions not being recorded and followed up.
  4. It noted that the dates set out in its stage two response regarding the complaint about the plumbing noise from the upstairs flat had not considered the resident’s original reports of the noise via her councillor and the landlord’s twitter page. Although both the councillor and its communications team had passed on the resident recordings to its repairs service, these had not been recorded on the repairs system, for which it apologised. It had instructed its repairs service to put in place a procedure to ensure that similar reports were clearly recorded in future.
  5. Whilst it appreciated that the dates for the original report of noise from the plumbing were not correct in the stage two response, it noted that the noise issue was fixed soon after the issue was first reported, but later returned towards the end of 2020. Having reviewed the action that was taken to address the complaint of noise and appreciating the difficulty in correctly diagnosing the cause of such noise in one visit, especially when the noise was not audible during the visit, it did not believe there had been a service failure and did not uphold this aspect of the complaint.
  6. It had been unable to identify a job on the repairs system to confirm that an asbestos inspection had been raised for the property in 2017, and therefore did not have a copy of any report. It would be contacting the resident to clarify details of the inspection to allow it to investigate further and locate any reports that were issued.
  7. It was concerned to hear that the plumber who attended the leak had moved panels in the boiler cupboard that were later confirmed to contain asbestos and had to be removed. Whilst the risk was low, the operative should have identified that the panels potentially contained asbestos, and awaited inspection and removal before carrying out further works. The landlord had asked the relevant contractor to investigate and identify the operative and take any appropriate action. The contractor had confirmed to the landlord that all operatives must undertake asbestos training before they commence employment and that it would ensure that the operative was enrolled on extended asbestos identification and handling training. Since the leak was first reported in 2019, the landlord and the contractor had worked closely to improve partnership working information-sharing to reduce the risk of jobs being closed prematurely, as happened in this case. The landlord accepted that there was service failure concerning the incorrect handling of asbestos and premature closing down of the initial job and it upheld this aspect of the complaint.
  8. It apologised for the significant delays the resident had experienced, the condition of the property whilst she awaited resolution, the financial outlay she had incurred, and the distress she had experienced.
  9. It had reviewed the compensation offered at stage one and two, and was now offering £500 compensation.

56. The landlord’s letter dated 22 July 2021 was its final response to the complaint, confirming that the complaint had exhausted its internal complaint procedure.

Assessment and findings

57. In reaching a decision about the resident’s complaint 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.

The landlord’s response to the resident’s reports of leaks at the property

58. There was maladministration by the landlord in its response to the resident’s reports of leaks at the property as:

  1. Following the resident’s report of a leak in December 2019 the landlord had attended the upstairs flat on 24 December 2019. During that visit the landlord had concluded that the leak might have been caused by an overspill of water from the bath. However, the landlord did not inform the resident about the result of its visit to the upstairs flat.
  2. The resident reported the leak from the upstairs flat to the landlord in December 2019, on 8 January 2020,  29 January 2020, 12 February 2020 and 19 February 2020. However, the landlord did not discover the loose tiles around the bath in the upstairs flat until 10 March 2020. The landlord fixed the loose tiles on 11 March 2020, 54 working days after it had logged the job to repair the leak and 34 working days outside the 20 working day timescale for completing routine repairs set out in its repairs handbook.
  3. Despite a further leak being reported in June 2020 and the landlord identifying asbestos on 15 June 2020 the landlord didn’t further inspect the property, or update the resident, until October 2020 and only after an enquiry from this Service on 19 August 2020. Although this period coincided with the Covid 19 pandemic, by 1 June 2020 landlords could visit properties to carry out both routine and essential inspections and repairs, as well as any planned internal works.
  4. The landlord delayed completing the works in December 2020 by mistakenly attending the wrong property on 8 December 2020.
  5. Whilst carrying out the works in December 2020 the resident was left for a number of days with intermittent hot water and heating.
  6. The landlord’s asbestos contractor caused a further leak whilst carrying out works in December 2020.

59. In its complaint responses the landlord acknowledged its failings in responding to the resident’s reports of leaks at the property. When there are failings by a landlord, the Ombudsman will consider whether the redress offered by the landlord (an apology, compensation and details of lessons learned) put things right and resolved the resident’s complaint satisfactorily in the circumstances. In considering this the Ombudsman takes into account whether the landlord’s offer of redress was in line with the Ombudsman’s Dispute Resolution Principles; be fair, put things right and learn from outcomes.

60. The landlord acted fairly in acknowledging its failings and apologising for the significant delays the resident had experienced, the condition of the property whilst she awaited resolution, the financial outlay she had incurred, and the distress she had experienced.

61. The landlord also evidenced that it had learnt from the outcome of the complaint by:

  1. Receiving confirmation from its asbestos contractor that all operatives must undertake asbestos training before commencing employment.
  2. Working closely with its contractor to improve partnership working information-sharing to reduce the risk of jobs being closed prematurely.

62. The landlord offered compensation of £500. This amount was appropriate as it was within the £1000 limit set out in the landlord’s compensation guidance for discretionary payments for service failure or maladministration.

63. However, the time and trouble and distress and inconvenience incurred by the resident as a result of the landlord’s failures was considerable as the landlord delayed in addressing the repairs and the resident had to chase the landlord for responses and updates on multiple occasions by telephone and email over a considerable amount of time. The Ombudsman’s guidance on remedies says that remedies of over £600 are suitable in cases such as this where there was a failure which had a significant impact on the resident.

64. The compensation offered by the landlord was therefore not proportionate to the impact that its failures had on the resident in incurring time and trouble and distress and inconvenience as a result of the landlord’s failings in its response to the resident’s reports of leaks at the property.

The landlord’s response to the resident’s request for compensation for possessions damaged by the leaks.

65. The landlord’s response to the resident’s request for compensation for possession damaged by the leaks was appropriate because, as set out on its website, residents are responsible for any loss or damage to their belongings through e.g. flooding. The website also explains that whilst the landlord does not insure residents’ contents, residents may obtain household insurance through a special scheme arranged by the landlord.

66. There was therefore no maladministration in relation to this aspect of the complaint.

The landlord’s response to the resident’s reports of noise coming from the plumbing in the flat upstairs

67. There was maladministration by the landlord in its response to the resident’s reports of noise coming from the plumbing in the flat upstairs as :

  1. The resident sent the landlord recordings of the noise on 20 May 2020 via her local councillor and later via the landlord’s twitter page, but the landlord did not record these on its repairs system.
  2. Whilst the landlord tried to book an appointment to inspect the plumbing in the upstairs flat it cancelled the job as the upstairs resident insisted that there was no sound from their property, but did not update the resident.
  3. Despite the resident making further reports of noise in March, April and May 2021, the landlord did not visit the upstairs flat again to investigate.

The landlord’s response to the resident’s concerns that her husband was not able to discuss repair issues with the landlord

68. There was service failure by the landlord in respect of this aspect of the complaint as:

  1. The landlord apologised in its stage one complaint response on 28 February 2020 that its customer service team had refused to speak to the resident’s husband, despite the resident having sent an email on 3 August 2018 giving permission for her husband to discuss repair issues with the landlord.
  2. The landlord also said in its stage one complaint response that it had highlighted to the relevant manager the resident’s email giving her husband permission to discuss repair issue with the landlord. However, on 12 June 2020 the landlord again refused to discuss repair issue with the resident’s husband and said that there was no record on the system saying that her husband could discuss repair issues with the landlord.
  3. On 30 April 2021 the resident informed the landlord that her husband was still experiencing difficulties in speaking to the landlord about repairs.

The landlord’s response to the resident’s request for a copy of an asbestos report

69. The landlord said in its final response that it had not been able to identify any asbestos survey carried out at the property in 2017 and would be contacting the resident to clarify details of the inspection to allow it to investigate further and locate any reports that were issued.

70. During the course of this investigation the landlord has informed this Service that the resident has not provided any evidence to it to confirm that an asbestos inspection was carried out at the property in 2017.

71. There was therefore no maladministration by the landlord in relation to this aspect of the complaint.

The landlord’s complaints handling

72. There was severe maladministration by the landlord in its complaint handling as:

  1. The resident made the complaint on 20 January 2020 and the landlord issued its stage one response on 28 February 2020, 29 working days later and 19 working days outside the 10 working day timescale set out in the Ombudsman’s Complaint handling Code.
  2. The landlord has accepted that the resident was in contact with it about her complaint between February 2020 and this Service contacting it on her behalf on 19 August 2020, but it did not provide any update to her about the complaint during this time.
  3. The resident confirmed to the landlord on 9 September 2020 that she wished to escalate her complaint. However the landlord did not send her its stage two complaint response until 9 June 2021, 195 working days later and 175 working days outside the 20 working day timescale set out in the Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code.
  4. The landlord only issued its stage two complaint response after being chased by the resident and this Service on numerous occasions and after having being issued with a Complaint Handling Failure Order.
  5. The landlord’s stage two response did not address all the issues that the resident had raised in her complaint, and had confirmed to the landlord as outstanding in her email dated 30 April 2021.
  6. The resident asked to escalate her complaint to stage three of the landlord’s complaints procedure on 10 June 2021 and the landlord issued its stage three complaint response on 22 July 2022, 30 working days later and 10 working days outside the 20 working day timescale set out in the Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code.

Determination (decision)

73. In accordance with paragraph 52 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme there was severe maladministration by the landlord in respect of its complaints handling.

74. In accordance with paragraph 52 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme there was maladministration by the landlord in respect of the complaints about the landlord’s:

  1. response to the resident’s reports of leaks at the property.
  2. response to the resident’s reports of noise coming from the plumbing in the flat upstairs

75. In accordance with paragraph 52 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme there was service failure by the landlord in respect of the complaint about the landlord’s response to the resident’s concerns that her husband was not able to discuss repair issues with the landlord.

76. In accordance with paragraph 52 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme there was no maladministration by the landlord in respect of the complaints about the landlord’s:

  1. response to the resident’s request for compensation for possessions damaged by the leaks.
  2. response to the resident’s request for a copy of an asbestos report.

Reasons

77. There were significant delays in the landlord’s complaints handling.

78. There were significant delays by the landlord in repairing the leaks at the property and the compensation it offered was not proportionate to the distress and inconvenience and time and trouble incurred by the resident.

79. The landlord did not record the resident’s noise recordings on its repair system and did not investigate the further reports of noise made by the resident after its visit to the upstairs flat on 17 March 2021.

80. The landlord did not ensure that its staff were aware that the resident had given permission for her husband to be able to discuss repair issues with the landlord.

81. The landlord acted appropriately in informing the resident that it was not responsible for damage to her possessions caused by the leaks.

82. The resident has not provided any evidence to confirm that an asbestos inspection was carried out at the property in 2017.

Orders

83. The landlord is ordered within four weeks of the date of this report to pay the resident £1225. This is comprised of:

  1. £500 compensation already offered, if this has not already been paid.
  2. A further £200 for the distress and inconvenience and time and trouble incurred by the resident as a result of the failings in responding to the resident’s reports of leaks at the property.
  3. £150 for the distress and inconvenience and time and trouble incurred by the resident as a result of the landlord’s response to her reports of noise coming from the plumbing in the upstairs flat.
  4. £75 for the distress and inconvenience and time and trouble incurred by the resident as a result of the landlord’s response to the resident’s concerns that her husband was not able to discuss repair issues with the landlord despite having authority to do so.
  5. £300 for the time and trouble incurred by the resident as a result of the landlord’s complaint handling failures.

84. The landlord is ordered within four weeks of the date of this report to ensure that its records accurately reflect that the resident’s husband has permission to speak to the landlord about repair issues.

85. The landlord is ordered within four weeks of the date of this report to provide evidence to this Service that it has provided staff training in complaints handling to ensure that complaints are responded to at both stages of the complaints process, in compliance with the Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code.