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Your Housing Limited (202207446)

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REPORT

COMPLAINT 202207446

Your Housing Limited

6 November 2023

 

Our approach

The Housing Ombudsman’s approach to investigating and determining complaints is to decide what is fair in all the circumstances of the case. This is set out in the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Ombudsman Scheme (the Scheme). The Ombudsman considers the evidence and looks to see if there has been any ‘maladministration’, for example whether the landlord has failed to keep to the law, followed proper procedure, followed good practice, or behaved in a reasonable and competent manner.

Both the resident and the landlord have submitted information to the Ombudsman, and this has been carefully considered. Their accounts of what has happened are summarised below. This report is not an exhaustive description of all the events that have occurred in relation to this case, but an outline of the key issues as a background to the investigation’s findings.

The complaint

  1. The landlord’s response to the resident’s reports of:
    1. Repairs to the communal areas of the site.
    2. The associated complaint.

Background

  1. The resident is a tenant of the landlord’s property. The resident lives in a flat within a block of flats. The landlord is the freeholder of the property.
  2. The landlord’s operative attended site on 10 March 2022 to review reports from the resident that the block paving in the communal parts of the site were uneven and caused a trip hazard. The operative found that the block paving was in a fair condition and did not identify any trip hazards or concerns regarding the condition of the paving.
  3. The resident contacted the landlord on 31 March 2022 regarding her concerns about external lighting bollards not working. This was raised as an emergency repair with the landlord’s operative attending on 1 April 2022. The operative noted that there was 1 lighting unit currently not working but advised that due to the age of the bollards, the landlord may wish to replace them all.
  4. Between 11 April 2022 and 31 May 2022, the resident called the landlord on 3 occasions to get further update regarding the landlord’s inspections and any progress on works that were highlighted following these inspections. The landlord raised a further inspection regarding the block paving for 1 June 2022. The landlord noted that there were a number of areas that may be considered a trip hazard, so instructed that works were to be carried out to level the block paving and remove these. The landlord attended on 18 and 19 June 2022 to complete the works to the block paving.
  5. The resident raised a formal complaint with the landlord on 21 June 2022. The resident advised that she felt the work to the paving had not been completed to a reasonable standard and the landlord had only completed cosmetic repairs which had not resolved the issue with the paving. The resident advised that the external communal lighting was not working, and she had reported this 2 months ago to the landlord. The resident advised that the landlord was not listening to her or treating the residents with the respect they deserve. The landlord acknowledged this on 22 June 2022, and made initial contact with the landlord in which it confirmed the outstanding issues that the resident was experiencing. These were:
    1. Repairs to the block paving due to concerns of trip hazards for residents
    2. Repairs to lighting, as this may have caused trip hazards as well as security issues.
  6. The landlord provided its stage 1 complaint response on 27 July 2022. The landlord confirmed that the following works had been carried out to address the issues of the block paving and lighting:

Block paving

  1. 31 May 2022, an emergency job was raised. The landlord attended on 1 June 2022 and noted the paving needed levelling.
  2. 6 June 2022, the landlord raised a job for groundworkers to attend to lift and relay the block paving. This was completed between 18-19 June 2022.
  3. 6 July 2022, the landlord’s surveyor attended and confirmed there were no further trip hazards.
  4. 26 July 2022, the landlord spoke to the resident regarding the works that had been carried out and arranged to meet the resident on site to carry out a joint inspection of the paving. This was due to be completed on 27 July 2022.

Lighting

  1. 31 March 2022, the landlord arranged an emergency job for an operative to attend to repair the lighting. The landlord attended on 1 April 2022 and confirmed the bollards may need to be replaced. This needed approval from the housing department before works could proceed.
  2. Operatives were to reattend on 3 August 2022 to replace the lighting units.
  1. The landlord apologised to the resident for the delay in these matters and offered £100 compensation for this. £50 for inconvenience in chasing the landlord for updates and £50 for the delay in complaint handling.
  2. The landlord’s operatives attended site on 8 August 2022 to carry out repair works to the lighting bollards but noted that it was unable to carry out these works, as groundwork operatives would be required to dig out the areas around the bollards. The landlord confirmed with the resident that the appointment for this would take place on 26 August 2022. The landlord contacted the resident on the 26 August 2022 to advise that due to staff absence, the appointment for lighting works needed to be rescheduled, and had been rebooked for 15 September 2022. This was acknowledged by the resident who advised that this was further poor service from the landlord.
  3. The resident escalated her complaint on 3 November 2022 advising that both the issue of the block paving and external lighting had not been resolved. The resident advised that the block paving had dipped again, which caused a further hazard for residents. The resident advised that the issues had been ongoing since March 2022, and nothing had been resolved. The resident advised that the landlord had also left a trip hazard outside of her property, as the new drain cover was plastic rather than metal. The landlord acknowledged this on the same day and apologised to the resident. The landlord advised that it needed to arrange for the bollards to be dug out to replace them. The landlord confirmed to the resident that this work would take roughly 4 days and confirmed this had been escalated to more senior staff to look into. The landlord’s operatives attended site on 18-20 December 2022 to relay the block paving.
  4. The landlord was due to issue its stage 2 complaint response to the resident by 24 November 2022. This Service contacted the landlord on 5 December 2022 and 15 December 2022 advising the landlord it had 5 working days to provide the resident with its final complaint response or the landlord would be issued with a Complaint Handling Failure Order (CHFO). This Service wrote to the landlord again on 5 January 2023 to confirm that as it had failed to provide the resident with stage 2 complaint response, it had been issued with a CHFO.
  5. The landlord issued its stage 2 response 12 January 2023 and apologised to the resident for the delay in issuing its response. The landlord confirmed the block paving had been repaired between 18 December 2022 and 20 December 2022. The landlord advised that it had not progressed the works to the communal lighting in an acceptable timeframe and noted that it had only progressed this matter once the resident had escalated her complaint. The landlord confirmed that the lighting was now fully functional. The landlord offered the resident £400 compensation, broken down as:
    1. £100 for service failure in handling of the reports of repairs.
    2. £100 for distress and inconvenience to the resident.
    3. £100 for poor communication resulting in the delayed complaint response.
    4. £100 for time and trouble of the resident spent chasing these matters.
  6. The resident remained dissatisfied with the landlord’s response to her complaints and the time taken to resolve these issues, and the potential risks associated with this. The resident is seeking additional compensation for the distress caused by this matter.

Assessment and findings

The landlord’s response to residents reported communal repairs.

  1. The landlord’s repair policy states that it operates a first-time right service. The landlord will seek to complete a repair first time where this is technically feasible to ensure minimal inconvenience for customers.
  2. The policy states that it has 3 types of repairs. These are:
    1. Emergency Repairs. These will be undertaken where there is a serious risk to customers, with attendance within 24 hours. The main aim being to ensure residents are safe and secure.
    2. Routine repairs. Where there is no immediate risk. The landlord aims to complete these repairs within 21 calendar days.
    3. Major and planned works. Where some repairs cannot be undertaken and completed within 21 calendar days, The landlord will attend within 21 calendar days to undertake an assessment and carry out temporary repairs with the full repair completed within 63 calendar days.
  3. The landlord’s compensation policy states that compensation will be proportionate with the level of time, trouble and inconvenience caused by the landlord’s action or inaction. Compensation and/or good will gestures may be appropriate to cover loss, inconvenience or to demonstrate the landlord’s apologies. Compensation will be proportion and all factors will be taken into consideration, such as household vulnerabilities. The landlord will consider the time, trouble and inconvenience, delay, and poor responses to customers complaints.

Block paving repair

  1. The landlord had attended the site to review the reported issues with the block paving on 10 March 2022 as an emergency repair. Its operative found the paving to be in fair condition and did not identify any trip hazards. The landlord attended again on 1 June 2022 and noted that there were areas that may be considered trip hazards. It made recommendations for this area to be relayed. The landlord completed these works on 18 and 19 June 2022, with a post work inspection taking place on 6 July 2022, with the landlord confirming that there were no further trip hazards present on the site. The landlord’s initial response to the resident’s reports concerning uneven paving made on 10 March 2022 was reasonable. It attended as an emergency in line with its repairs policy above. This was reasonable from the landlord as it showed it recognised that the paving repair may pose an urgent risk to the safety of residents.
  2. On 3 November 2022, the resident contacted the landlord to advise that the block paving had dipped, causing a further concern regarding trip hazards. The landlord raised a further repair, which was carried out on 18-20 December 2022 to address this issue. While it would have been frustrating for the resident that this issue had reoccurred, there had been a period of 4 months where the landlord’s repair works appeared to have resolved the issue. The landlord was entitled to rely on the opinions of its qualified contractors concerning the work needed to repair the paving slabs and the Ombudsman has not seen any evidence aside from the resident’s testimony to show that the repairs were not carried out correctly. The resident advised this Service that the issue had not been resolved, and while this Service does not doubt the resident’s comments, no evidence has been provided to support this. When the issue reoccurred in November 2022, the landlord reasonably responded to this by arranging further works to be carried out to resolve this issue. The issue reoccurring is not necessarily an indication of service failure by the landlord. In this case, it is clear from the evidence that the landlord was making reasonable efforts to resolve the issue with the block paving. It is clear from the landlord’s repair log that this repair was raised as major works to be completed within 63 calendar days, in line with the landlord’s repair policy. This was reasonable from the landlord, and further demonstrated that it was considering more complex work to the block paving to ensure the issue did not arise again. It appears that the repair on this occasion provided a lasting resolution as they have not been any further reported issues.  Therefore the landlord acted reasonably in its response to the resident’s repair request for the paving. The landlord may wish to arrange a further inspection of the paving in light of the resident’s comments that there were still trip hazards present.

Communal Lighting

  1. The landlord attended on 1 April 2022 as an emergency repair to review the bollard lighting on the site. It found that on this visit 1 bollard lighting unit was not working. The landlord had initially responded reasonably and in line with its own repairs policy as it attended the emergency appointment within 24 hours. This demonstrated that the landlord had understood the resident’s concern and the potential risk caused by the lighting not working on site, which may have caused a trip hazard or security concerns.
  2. While the landlord had initially responded reasonably to the resident’s report of issues with the communal lighting, it had failed to maintain this level of service going forward.  According to the landlord’s repair records, the issue of the lighting had meant that 10 lighting bollards were not functioning in the communal area. There is evidence that the landlord had initially raised jobs to complete the repair to the communal lighting, with a completion date of 8 August 2022. This repair being raised as major works to be completed within 63 working days in line with its repair policy. The landlord confirmed in its stage 2 complaint response on 12 January 2022 that the lighting was now functioning as normal. This was 196 working days after the landlord had first attended to review the repair on 1 April 2022.  The landlord’s repair logs do not provide full information regarding the exact date the jobs were completed. This may have been avoided had the landlord ensured that it was maintaining good record keeping around the jobs raised and previous visits to the estate regarding this repair.
  3. There are repeated examples of the landlord’s electrical operatives attending the site to carry out works, but being unable to progress with works due to either having incorrect tools to complete the job or the landlord not arranging the correct operatives to attend the site at the same time. This was evidenced by the landlord’s repair log from the landlord’s attendance on 19 July 2022 and the 13 September 2022, in which it confirmed that groundwork operatives were required. This led to the landlord having to cancel and rearrange jobs. The landlord had made previous visits to the site to assess the repair and should have been aware of what operatives would have been required to suitably complete these works. This caused further delay in the works being progressed. As above, this may have been avoided had the landlord ensured that it was maintaining good record keeping around the jobs raised and previous visits to the estate regarding this repair. This was unreasonable from the landlord as this caused further delay in the works being completed. These delays would have caused the resident distress and inconvenience over a long period of time, in addition to the frustration, she felt in pursuing the matter.
  4. The landlord’s operatives were due to reattend on 26 August 2022 with an electrician and groundworkers to carry out necessary repairs. The landlord cancelled this job on the day due to staff absence. While this may have been frustrating for the resident, it is clear that these repairs had been booked by the landlord, and this had to be rearranged due to unforeseen circumstances. It would have been reasonable for the landlord to evidence that it had attempted to arrange for alternative operatives to attend to complete these works on this day, due to the previous delays in the works being completed, but there is no indication this was considered.
  5. The landlord noted in its stage 2 complaint response that it had failed to reasonably progress works to the lighting within a reasonable timeframe, and this was not done until the resident had escalated her complaint. The landlord apologised for the poor service received by the resident, advising this had fallen well short of their expected service standards. The resident was offered £400 compensation by the landlord for this. £300 was offered for the landlord’s handling of the repair, and was broken down as:
    1. £100 for poor communication.
    2. £100 for inconvenience, delays, and distress.
    3. £100 for time and trouble.
  6. There have been clear errors from the landlord in its handling of the lighting repairs, causing the resident to have to repeatedly chase the landlord for updates regarding progress of works. The landlord had acknowledged its failings in the handling of these repairs and apologised for the distress, the delays, the poor communication and the time and trouble spend by the resident chasing the landlord for updates. These issues amounted to maladministration by the landlord.
  7. The landlord offered the resident a total of £350 compensation for its errors in the handling of these repairs. This offer is in line with the Ombudsman’s remedies guidance (published on our website) which sets out the Ombudsman’s approach to compensation. The remedies guidance states that in cases where there was a failure which adversely affected the resident, £100-£600 should be offered. Therefore, the landlord does not need to do anything further in this regard, as its offer is in line with what the Ombudsman would have awarded had the landlord not already made an offer and it is appropriate redress for its errors in this case.

Complaint Handling

  1. The landlord operates a 2 stage complaints process. At stage 1, the landlord will aim to provide a written response to the complaint within 10 working days. Where this is not possible, the landlord will confirm this in writing to the resident and will ensure the delay is no longer than an additional 10 working days. The resident can request an escalation to stage 2 if they remain unhappy with the outcome of the stage 1 response. The landlord will aim to resolve stage 2 complaints within 20 working days. Where this is not possible, the landlord will confirm this in writing to the resident, with the delay being no longer than 10 working days.
  2. The resident raised a formal complaint with the landlord on 22 June 2022. The landlord acknowledged this on the same day. The landlord contacted the resident on 7 July 2022 to confirm the nature of the complaint and suitable action to be taken by the landlord in order to resolve this. The landlord provided its stage 1 response on 27 July 2022.  The landlord had reasonably acknowledged all aspects of the resident’s complaint regarding the block paving and communal lighting and provided a timeline of action taken at that stage. The landlord’s response was issued 25 working days after the resident’s complaint was issued. This falls outside of the landlord’s complaints policy and what this Service would consider a reasonable timeframe for landlords to respond to a stage 1 complaint, as indicated in our published complaint handling code (CHC). The landlord offered the resident £50 compensation in the stage 1 complaint response for the delays in responding to her complaint. It was reasonable for the landlord to offer this compensation, which demonstrated that it acknowledged its own failing in the handling of this complaint. The amount of compensation was proportionate to the inconvenience which would have been caused by the delay and was in line with the Ombudsman’s remedies guidance which suggests awards in this range for minor errors by the landlord which caused inconvenience and/or distress to the resident.
  3. The resident escalated her complaint on 3 November 2022, and the landlord acknowledged this on the same day, confirming it would provide a response to the resident by 24 November 2022. This Service wrote to the landlord on 5 December 2022 as the landlord had failed to provide a stage 2 response to the resident. Following further contact, this Service contacted the landlord again on 5 January 2022 to advise that as the landlord had failed to provide the resident with a stage 2 response as previously instructed, it was issued with a CHFO. The landlord issued the resident with a stage 2 complaint response on 12 January 2023, 47 working days after the resident escalated her complaint. This was unreasonable from the landlord as it demonstrated it was not adhering to instructions provided by this Service, but also delayed the resident’s ability to bring her complaint to this Service to be fully investigated as she had to wait for the landlord’s final response before the Ombudsman could become formally involved. This may reasonably have also made the resident feel that she was not being taken seriously by the landlord in its handling of her complaint. The landlord offered the resident £100 for the delay in issuing her with a stage 2 response.
  4. While it was reasonable for the landlord to acknowledge its failings in its handling of the complaint and offered compensation, the compensation offered for this aspect of the complaint does not fully reflect the time, trouble, and inconvenience, the delay will have caused the resident.  Due to this, there was maladministration by the landlord in its handling of the resident’s complaint. The landlord should offer a further £150 to bring the total amount awarded to £300. This is in line with this Service’s published remedies guidance as referenced above.

Determination

  1. In accordance with paragraph 53(b) of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, the landlord has made an offer of redress prior to investigation which, in the Ombudsman’s opinion, resolves the complaint about its handling of the resident’s report of communal repairs satisfactorily.
  2. In accordance with paragraph 52 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, there was maladministration by the landlord in its handling of the resident’s complaint.

Orders

  1. The landlord is ordered to pay the resident a total of £650 compensation broken down as the following.
    1. £350 for the landlord’s failure in handling of the resident’s report of communal repairs. This amount should be deducted from the total if this has already been paid to the resident as part of compensation offered at stage 1 and stage 2 of the complaints process.
    2. £300 for the landlord’s failure in its handling of the resident’s complaint. £150 should be deducted from the total if this has already been paid to the resident as part of compensation offered at stage 1 and stage 2 of the complaints process for delays in complaint handling.
  2. The landlord should provide a written apology to the resident for the delay in resolving these matters and the impact this had on her.
  3. The landlord is to confirm to this service that it has complied with the above orders within 28 days of this report.

Recommendation

  1. The landlord should arrange for a surveyor to attend the site to further review the communal paving around the site to ensure there are no trip hazards present.