Housing Ombudsman celebrates one year of increased transparancy

A year on since starting to publish all its decisions, the Housing Ombudsman’s online casebook now contains nearly 1,800 individual investigation reports.
Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway

A year on since starting to publish all its decisions, the Housing Ombudsman’s online casebook now contains nearly 1,800 individual investigation reports. A major step in increasing the Ombudsman’s transparency, the decisions provide an ever-expanding resource to promote learning in the social housing sector and demonstrate the difference complaints can make for individual residents and wider benefit.

The decisions, published every two weeks, show the range of issues the Ombudsman can consider as well as the type of outcomes following an investigation. The landlord in each case is identified. Among the recent decisions published are:

  • A case concerning Stockport Homes, ref 202000437, where its inspection prior to a mutual exchange did not identify all the relevant defects and it failed to recognise the impact on the new resident who had to report the repairs needed. The landlord missed the opportunity to make the resident aware of the defects before he moved in and to consider if it was appropriate to require the outgoing tenant to take any remedial action.
  • A complaint from a group of leaseholders of Notting Hill Genesis, ref 201907483, about communal defects and repairs. The landlord had agreed to appoint independent surveyors to assess the defects but delayed for more than a year and did not acknowledge this failure in its complaints process, and also delayed in progressing a resolution to the issues.
  • A finding of maladministration for Vivid, ref 202010013, in a case concerning damp and mould where the resident had repeatedly reported issues over a period of nearly two years. During mediation, the landlord unfairly placed blame on the resident for the damp and mould in the property. The Ombudsman ordered the landlord to review its advice to residents and use of language in the light of the Ombudsman’s Spotlight report on damp and mould.
  • A case about a resident living in an adapted property of Hyde Housing Association, ref 202015952, with a managing agent responsible for the communal areas which the resident had complained about, as well as her own front door. There was an unacceptable delay of 19 months in dealing with the front door. The Ombudsman’s investigation also found a lack of clarity over repair/maintenance responsibility of the communal areas and recommended this should be reviewed.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “Publishing this volume of decisions on our searchable database promotes fairness for residents and provides an incredibly rich source of learning for the social housing sector. I would encourage landlords to use it regularly to learn more about our approach to investigations and to help improve services and complaint handling. It also provides a valuable resource for residents to help understand the range of issues we can consider and the type of outcomes.

“In two of the cases highlighted here, the issues have been identified in our most recent systemic reports. In our Spotlight report on damp and mould we said that addressing damp and mould needed to be a higher priority for landlords and they should avoid inferring blame on residents due to ‘lifestyle’, when it is often not solely their issue, and take responsibility for resolving problems. In support of this, we identified best practice and made recommendations for landlords to implement and in this case ordered the landlord to review its advice and use of language to avoid unfairly blaming residents.

“Our most recent Spotlight report examined learning from cases involving a relationship between social landlords and managing agents. Overall, we found that the increased complexity of these arrangements seems to correlate with an increase in confusion, delay and unfairness. We recognised the challenging issues for landlords and called for stronger regulation of managing agents. Again, we provided important practical lessons for landlords to handle things better.”

Decisions are published three months after the decision date. Details of what, when and how we publish are set out in our publication policy. As well as decisions we also publish performance data reports on individual landlords as part of our increasing transparency.

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