The Housing Ombudsman has found severe maladministration in two areas for Catalyst Housing in the months ahead of its merger with Peabody’ in relation damp and mould and a damaged driveway. The issues went on for 19 months.
The Ombudsman published its special investigation report into the landlord on the eve of its merger which found significant issues with repairs records and complaint handling, both evident within this case. This case was not part of the report.
The Ombudsman also raised concerns around learning from the report and complaints more generally being taken into its merger with Peabody.
On the issue of damp and mould, it took the landlord six months after the first reporting of the issue for it to even inspect the property. This was only when the formal complaint was raised by the resident.
There was also a worrying lack of record keeping, with little to be found on what the inspection uncovered and evidence that the landlord did not appreciate or investigate the whole issue. It recommended extractor fans be installed instead of works to guttering or the roof where there was a water leak reported.
The resident complained fortnightly about the issues but records suggest little action from the landlord has been taken, leaving her and her child living in a mouldy home.
There is no evidence on the damaged driveway that the landlord had done anything about the repair, simply stating in its final response that it would “see what it could do”.
This is despite the resident having mobility issues and advising that she needed to use a wheelchair. In its last correspondence to the Ombudsman, the driveway was still not fixed, over a year after first being reported.
It also appeared the landlord had not carefully considered its obligations under the Equality Act 2010 to eliminate discrimination and ensure that the resident was not subjected to a substantial disadvantage in being able to access her home.
The Ombudsman ordered the landlord to pay the resident £3,500 in compensation and arrange a full inspection of the property and building and complete any outstanding works.
In its learning from the case, the landlord has said it has reviewed and tightened procedures and increased resources to ensure it is better at repairs, complaints handling and communicating with residents.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “Throughout this case, there is evidence of the landlord not taking the resident’s concerns seriously enough and not acting with the urgency required.
“The length of time that the resident and her son have had to deal with the issues, and the number of times they have had to raise it with the landlord, is unacceptable.
“The landlord had the opportunity to rectify these issues during the complaints process but failed to do so.
“The resident clearly had additional needs and it is concerning that the landlord had not demonstrated that it had considered its obligations under the Equality Act.
“The recent investigation into the landlord prior to its merger has set out important recommendations for service improvement, which the merged landlord is addressing.
“I also welcome the landlord’s response on its learning from this case and the changes being made to improve its service. I would encourage other landlords to consider the learning the case offers for their own services.”
We also found maladministration for the landlord’s complaint handling in this case after it failed to provide responses in line with the Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code.
In all cases of severe maladministration, the Ombudsman invites the landlord to provide a learning statement.
Catalyst Housing learning statement
We are terribly sorry that this customer was let down. Everyone has the right to live in a safe and well-maintained home, free from damp and mould, and residents should expect to have any issues dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Catalyst didn’t do that in this case, and we are working to put things right. Although issues have not been resolved as quickly as we would have liked, we have been in regular contact with the resident throughout and agreed to pay £3,500 in compensation by way of apology.
Since the complaint, we have reviewed and tightened procedures and increased our resources to ensure we are better at handling repairs, managing complaints, keeping our records up to date and, most importantly, communicating with residents.
We were involved in the Better Social Housing Review and the priorities in our refreshed group strategy, published after the completion of our merger in April, are closely aligned with this. We are working to improve overall services for residents at a more local level and prioritising investment in our existing homes. We are listening and using every opportunity to make things right, learn lessons and improve.