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Stockport Homes Limited (202002678)

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COMPLAINT 202002678

Stockport Homes Limited

8 December 2020

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 response to:
    1. The resident’s request for reimbursement of costs for property improvements at his previous property.
    2. The resident’s reports about external works to the property.
    3. The resident’s reports about staff conduct.

Background and summary of events


  1. The resident has a Secure tenancy with the landlord which commenced on 3 December 1991. He was recently decanted to a different property and opted to remain there permanently.
  2. The resident has requested a new tenancy agreement for his new property, but the landlord has advised he does not need one.
  3. The resident completed alterations by way of laying paving to create a patio in the garden at his previous property.
  4. There are outstanding external works at the current property.
  5. The resident’s daughter is a wheelchair user.
  6. The tenancy agreement requires the resident to “permit the authorised staff of the landlord or representatives to enter and view the premises at all reasonable hours and to inspect or execute repairs to the premises…”

Relevant policies and procedures

  1. The Property Alterations Policy states that “in some cases, alterations that are approved may still need to be removed if the tenancy is terminated (i.e. privately funded stair-lift) and any reinstatement costs will need to be met by the outgoing customer…”
  2. In relation to compensation for improvements, the policy states the landlord will pay compensation to residents under the Compensation for Improvements Regulations “where and when applicable only if the application and alterations have been properly followed and enacted”.
  3. The Secure Tenants of Local Authorities (Compensation for Improvements) Regulations 1994 entitle a qualifying person to be paid compensation by their landlord for a “qualifying improvement.”
  4. Under the regulations, qualifying improvements are:

Bath or shower

Wash-hand basin


Kitchen sink

Storage cupboard in bathroom or kitchen

Work surfaces for food preparation

Space or water heating

Thermostatic radiator valves

Insulation of pipes, water tank or cylinder

Loft insulation

Cavity wall insultation

Draught proofing of external doors or windows

Double glazing or other external window replacement or secondary glazing

Rewiring or the provision of power and lighting or other electrical fittings (including smoke detectors)

Any object which improves the security of the dwelling-house, but excluding burglar alarms

  1. The Lettable and Return Standards guide explains the standard for external works and gardens. It states, “perimeter paths around the property and leading to the front door will be free from trip hazards, such as missing flags or trip hazards greater than 25mm.” It also explains that these types of jobs do not affect the resident’s ability to move into the property, and therefore these works may be completed after the tenancy has started.
  2. The Customer Feedback Policy defines a complaint as “an expression of dissatisfaction about a service provided … within the last six months”.

Summary of events

  1. On 28 February 2020, the landlord visited the property in relation to some external works at the property. There was a disagreement regarding what work was still required and the resident “disengaged from the conversation”. Following the landlord’s visit, the resident contacted his councillor alleging staff at the landlord were “corrupt”, his garden was unsafe and that he wanted flags laying in his new garden or compensation for the improvements at his previous property.
  2. On 3 March 2020, the councillor forwarded the email on to the landlord and noted the allegations were ‘quite serious’.
  3. On 16 March 2020, the landlord responded to the councillor and provided an overview of the investigation, including that the resident had refused to allow the contractor to visit the property. The landlord explained it was happy to ask its contractor to attempt to arrange to complete the works and requested the councillor put the suggested proposal to the resident.
  4. On 23 March 2020, the UK Government announced that people must stay at home except for some limited circumstances. It is reasonable to assume the landlord moved to an ‘emergency repairs only’ service around this time.
  5. The landlord spoke with the resident by telephone on 27 March 2020 and followed up with an email on 31 March 2020. It confirmed that it had raised the request regarding additional paving and hoped to have an update in the next few days.
  6. On 27 May 2020, the landlord contacted its contractor to ask when they would likely be able to finish works at the resident’s address.
  7. On 2 June 2020, the landlord contacted the contractor again to ask if they were able to confirm a date for the works to be finished. The contractor confirmed they would be able to complete the works week commencing 22 June 2020.
  8. On 9 June 2020, the resident asked the councillor to escalate matters to the Ombudsman. The councillor contacted the landlord, who advised the matter had been dealt with as a councillor enquiry rather than a complaint. The landlord converted it to a complaint at the request of the councillor and sent a first stage response to the resident on 12 June 2020.
  9. In the first stage response, the landlord explained it had been unable to substantiate the allegations of staff conduct due to the passage of time that had elapsed and the staff members no longer working for the landlord. It also explained that it was not responsible for reimbursing the resident for the patio at his previous property. It suggested the resident contact Adult Social Care for an assessment to identify if any adaptations could be made to the property for the resident’s daughter. Finally, it stated that it had agreed to complete outstanding works and that delays resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic and the resident’s refusal to grant access did not mean there had been a service failure.
  10. On 19 June 2020, the resident contacted the landlord advising he did not want the landlord’s contractor to attend on 22 June 2020.
  11. The resident emailed the Housing Ombudsman Service on 2 July 2020 requesting assistance with his complaint to the landlord.
  12. The Housing Ombudsman Service wrote to the landlord on 12 July 2020 advising the resident had contacted this service about his complaint.
  13. On 16 July 2020, the landlord wrote to the resident advising it had received contact from the Housing Ombudsman Service. It assumed he was dissatisfied with his stage one response and offered to escalate the complaint to the second stage, which the resident declined.
  14. On 20 July 2020, the landlord wrote to the resident to confirm that as he had declined the offer to attend a complaints panel, his complaint had exhausted the internal process.
  15. The Housing Ombudsman Service wrote to the resident on 15 October 2020 to confirm his case had been put forward for investigation.

Assessment and findings

Reimbursement of costs incurred at previous property

  1. The resident laid paving in his previous property to create a patio area. The resident has asked the landlord to either lay equivalent paving in his new property or to reimburse him for the works completed at the previous property. The landlord has refused stating the paving at the current property meets its lettable standard and that it has no record of any agreement to reimburse the resident.
  2. In addition, the laying of a patio is not classified as a qualifying improvement under the Secure Tenants of Local Authorities (Compensation for Improvements) Regulations 1994. Therefore, in the absence of any evidence of an agreement from the landlord at the time of the paving works, or any legal requirement or tenancy condition that requires the landlord to reimburse the costs, there is no evidence that the landlord is required to reimburse the resident for the patio at his previous property.

External works at current property

  1. Having taken the decision to remain in the current property on a permanent basis, rather than return to his previous property, the resident effectively accepted the property in its existing condition
  2. The resident states the patio is used by his daughter, who is a wheelchair user. The landlord has advised the resident to contact Adult Social Care at the local authority with a view to arranging an Occupational Therapy assessment to determine whether there are any alterations that can be made to the property to assist his daughter. The landlord has also advised it cannot guarantee the scope of works.
  3. The Ombudsman notes the resident has alleged the landlord has discriminated against him and his daughter and that he has already contacted the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) about this. The EASS are the appropriate body to deal with allegations of discrimination. The Ombudsman is unable to consider allegations of discrimination and suggests the resident continues to engage with the EASS should he wish to proceed with this element of his complaint.
  4. Despite the resident disengaging from the conversation during the visit on 28 February 2020, the landlord completed a survey and determined the flags to the front of the property needed relaying due to a small amount of water pooling on the paving. It also confirmed that whilst there was a small step down from the paving to the soil (which is awaiting topsoil and lawn seed), the paving is free of trip hazards and is therefore not unsafe.
  5. As per the Lettable and Return Standards guide, external works, including the garden can be completed after the tenancy has commenced. The landlord assessed the outstanding works and arranged for their contractor to attend. The tenant refused access, therefore ending the landlord’s duty to complete the works.
  6. Despite this, the landlord explained to the councillor it was happy to instruct its contractor to attend again. Works were arranged for week commencing 22 June, however on 19 June 2020, the resident again stated he would not allow the contractor to attend. Given the vulnerability concerns raised by the resident, it is commendable that the landlord chose to continue with its attempts to identify and address any repair issues at the property. The landlord’s actions demonstrate its flexibility and commitment to achieving a resolution in the circumstances. In the Ombudsman’s opinion, the landlord has responded reasonably to the reports about external work at the property.

Staff conduct

  1. The resident has alleged that the landlord’s staff had “conned him out of his life savings”. This relates to the cost of the patio at the resident’s previous property, which the resident believes he should be reimbursed for. The Ombudsman cannot investigate the conduct of the landlord’s staff but can consider the landlord’s investigation of the matter. The alleged incident occurred several years ago, and therefore falls outside the landlord’s complaints policy. Despite this, the landlord agreed to investigate this matter, demonstrating its transparency and flexibility. The staff members concerned no longer work for the landlord and so could not be interviewed. The landlord has interrogated its systems and has not been able to identify any evidence supporting the resident’s allegations. Given the passage of time and the fact the staff members concerned no longer work for the landlord, the Ombudsman considers the actions the landlord has taken to investigate these matters is reasonable in the circumstances.

Determination (decision)

  1. In accordance with paragraph 54 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, there was no maladministration by the landlord in respect of its response to:
    1. The resident’s request for reimbursement of costs for property improvements at his previous property.
    2. The resident’s reports about external works to the property.
    3. The resident’s reports about staff conduct.


  1. The resident’s patio is not a qualifying improvement under the Regulations, therefore the landlord’s refusal to reimburse the resident for this work is reasonable. It has suggested the resident approach the local authority for an assessment for adaptations, and the Ombudsman considers this to be reasonable in the circumstances.
  2. The tenancy agreement requires the tenant to allow the landlord or their representatives access to conduct repair works. The resident’s refusal to permit the contractor access is a breach of the tenancy. Despite this, the landlord has continued to attempt to complete the external works at the property. In the Ombudsman’s opinion, the landlord has responded reasonably to the reports about external works at the property and it would be reasonable for them to discontinue attempts to complete the outstanding works.
  3. The landlord’s investigation of the staff conduct matters was hampered by the fact the incident occurred several years ago and the staff concerned no longer work for the landlord. The Ombudsman considers the steps the landlord has taken to investigate are reasonable in the circumstances.


  1. For the sake of clarity, the Ombudsman recommends the landlord provide the tenant with a new tenancy for his new address as per his request.