Nine in 10 respondents rated their housing association’s communications in relation to the building safety crisis negatively, with over half (52%) picking the worst possible rating ‘very poor’.

That is according to a new report by the campaigning group End Our Cladding Scandal.

The report, Dereliction of Duty, covers the experience of leaseholders from 35 HAs and makes detailed recommendations for the sector and other stakeholders.

Poor communication from housing associations was one of the prevailing themes. An overwhelming number of respondents highlighted a combination of lack of information, poor quality communication, and being completely ignored or repeatedly stonewalled by their housing association as a major stress factor.

The lack of transparency about costs and accounting was a frequent complaint, along with poor customer service overall.

However, respondents said that poor customer service had already been prevalent before the building safety crisis.

Some respondents also complained that housing associations are already passing on building safety costs to their leaseholders: over a third of respondents had already paid or were currently paying for interim measures and remediation costs.

There was no apparent consistency with regard to what costs HAs are prepared to fund themselves. Several HAs are covering costs for interim measures, but in a number of cases, this was only for some of their leaseholders.

Four HAs are paying for some of the remediation costs; however, there was no evidence that this policy was applied consistently for all the buildings where they are landlords.

One housing association only charged shared ownership leaseholders for their ‘share’ of remediation costs – in line with the percentage share that they own in the property. It is unclear whether this is a group-wide policy decision.

Many respondents commented on the fact that their life choices had been significantly impacted, or in some cases taken away. They also commented on how interaction with their housing association was a compounding factor in the building safety crisis, “making an awful situation significantly worse”.

Other key findings include:

  • 85% of respondents were still waiting for remediation work to start on their building
  • 106 respondents had been told about the costs they would have to pay: 51% said their personal bill would be over £20,000, while a staggering 35% said it would be over £50,000.
  • 8 in 10 respondents were worried about forthcoming costs and/ or had researched applying for bankruptcy and 1 in 10 were already facing financial hardship or bankruptcy.
  • Only 1 in 10 leaseholders had been offered the option to spread the additional building safety costs over an extended period.
  • Over 9 in 10 respondents said that the building safety crisis had impacted their mental health, with over half saying that it had done so ‘significantly’.
  • 1 in 5 respondents told us they had been prescribed medication or had to take time off work as a result of the stress and anxiety brought about by the building safety crisis.

The report sets out six key recommendations for housing associations:

  1. Substantially improve communication with leaseholders
  2. Routinely share fire safety information
  3. Substantially improve service delivery and customer care
  4. Review and update relevant policies
  5. Train housing association staff and governance
  6. Improve access to financial information and related support

You can read the full report here.