The Housing Ombudsman has found severe maladministration on the part of the London Borough of Lambeth for its lengthy delays in repairing a resident’s window.
The resident concerned had had her bedroom windows boarded up since June 2019.
The Ombudsman says it has written to the landlord expressing concern at the “high level of failure” seen in its casework since issuing a special report earlier this year.
In this case, the landlord had made temporary window repairs with wooden boards after two panels had fallen out of their frames from the bedroom windows in the resident’s fifth floor flat onto the ground below.
She immediately reported it and then made a formal complaint eight months later.
She said she had no choice but to live in a flat with a boarded bedroom window that let in rain and a cold draught, which she said was intolerable in the autumn and winter months.
The landlord said the windows would be replaced, which required scaffolding, but then delayed.
In its final response on the resident’s complaint nine months later, it apologised and confirmed a window replacement would be fitted – but did not give any timescales.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the landlord’s repair records were not comprehensive, and it was not clear why the windows still have not been replaced.
This indicates poor record keeping, the Ombudsman says, as it should have detailed records of any repairs identified as necessary including the timescales and an explanation of any delays.
While some delays were caused by the pandemic, this does not adequately explain a delay of over a year for the repair, the Ombudsman says.
It adds that these delays posed a potential health and safety risk for the resident, her child, and other residents in the area who may be injured by falling windows.
In February this year, the Ombudsman published a special report about Lambeth following the volume and frequency with which it had issued complaint-handling failure orders involving the landlord.
The report provided learning to help the landlord strengthen its complaint handling and address some of the substantive issues giving rise to complaints, particularly around repairs and record keeping.
Separately, since the start of this year, the Ombudsman has issued a further eight complaint handling failure orders.
Its latest quarterly report includes three orders issued to Lambeth.
‘Simply not acceptable’
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “It is simply not acceptable to expect a resident to live in a property in this situation for such a prolonged period. It is concerning again to see poor records management impeding an effective response.
“I have serious concerns that months after our special report we are continuing to see significant issues and such a high level of service failure.
“I have requested a meeting with the landlord to understand how they are implementing more effective learning from complaints and how the corporate leadership is driving change.”
The Ombudsman also found maladministration for the landlord’s complaint handling due to “unacceptable delays” in this case and ordered it to pay compensation to the resident and arrange for the windows to be replaced.
No response from Lambeth Council
In cases of severe maladministration, the Ombudsman invites the landlord to provide a statement on learning from the complaint.
In this instance, however, the Ombudsman has not received a response from Lambeth Council.
Image credit: Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock
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