The Housing Ombudsman found severe maladministration for PA Housing’s repeated failings in dealing with a leak coming into a resident’s bedroom from the property above causing her to sleep in her living room for more than 18 months. It repeatedly failed to provide updates on works to fix the leak and repeatedly offered to reimburse her for the costs of a dehumidifier but then failed to do so. It failed to respond to her concerns about compensation for damage and failed to respond to her queries on what support it could offer in relation to her disabilities.
The landlord had acknowledged in August 2020 that it needed to carry out the works to the resident’s property following the leak and did do work on the neighbour’s property to address the leaks. However the Ombudsman found no evidence that it carried out work in the resident’s property. It made arrangements but then failed to follow up or the works were delayed.
It later acknowledged that the leaks had caused damage to the resident’s bedding and had led to the resident having to sleep in her living room which was still the case when the Ombudsman issued its decision in April 2022. This meant the resident had not been able to use her bedroom for 84 weeks. The landlord raised the possibility of compensation but never followed it up. It was also aware that the resident had a disability and initially failed to offer any support. When it said it could offer support by adapting her spare bedroom to her needs, it never did despite further queries from the resident.
The Ombudsman also found maladministration for the landlord’s complaint handling and ordered it to pay a total of £2,830 compensation, apologise to her, provide a timescale for completing rectification works and carry out a review of its overall management of the case.
Following the Ombudsman’s investigation, the landlord’s learning from this case includes changes to its policy and procedures for managing complex cases, regular reports and staff training.
“Throughout this complaint there were multiple instances where the landlord’s lack of communication caused distress to the resident. Even where it did provide timeframes for works, these were often not met and no communications given to the resident with an explanation or updated timeframe for works.
“The landlord’s failure to acknowledge the resident’s reports of leaks, having previously advised that it would keep her up to date, would have caused considerable distress for the resident, who remained unsure about how and when the leak would be resolved and continued to leave her without the use of her bedroom.
“I 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.”Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman
In cases of severe maladministration the Ombudsman invites the landlord to provide a statement on the lessons learned following the decision.
Statement from PA Housing:
We’re deeply sorry for the errors made throughout this case, and the distress it has caused our resident. Our hope is always to provide the best possible services to our customers, and it’s clear this did not happen here.
- We’re continuing to work with our resident and are keen to re-establish a relationship of trust with them. They continue to provide valuable feedback and have been involved in helping us to improve services for all.
- We’ve reviewed our policy and procedures for managing complex cases to ensure there is the correct ownership and management throughout to completion.
- Our oldest cases are now reported daily to agree action plans and monitor their progress.
- Using these reports, meetings now take place weekly with contractors for our complex cases. This provides an opportunity to flag any potential delays and allows the customer to be kept updated.
- Leaks are now specifically highlighted in these reports and meetings held to ensure clear visibility for all.
- We report regularly to a senior level, to our Board, and across the organisation so that, as a business, we make sure we both learn and address the issues raised from top to bottom.
- Some staff have already received empathy training for dealing with customers and we have commissioned more training to take place in 2023. Our written communications have also been reviewed to ensure the tone is appropriate.
- Our centralised Customer Experience Team has been established since the complaint was first raised. Their work has helped us improve both the timeliness, and the way we deal with complaints when a customer raises a concern.
- We’ve taken this as an opportunity to review complaints received for similar issues in the past 12 months, checking to ensure there are no follow up works required and the residents are happy.
We’re very grateful to the Housing Ombudsman for allowing us the opportunity to demonstrate the lessons we have learnt so we can prevent something like this happening again.