The Housing Ombudsman has found severe maladministration for a council after a nine-month delay in its complaint handling left repairs outstanding and the resident without redress.
The Ombudsman was forced to issue a Complaint Handling Failure Order to get the Ealing Council to issue a response.
There were also recorded vulnerabilities for the resident.
The complaint relates to a leak which the resident believed was coming from the flat above. After reporting the issue, the landlord visited both flats and made some repairs, but the resident reported the issue was still ongoing and made a complaint two months later.
In the following six months, the resident kept in touch with the landlord but it provided no update on the complaint, and it took the Ombudsman to intervene for it to provide more information to the resident.
The resident then escalated her complaint but did not receive a response until nine months later, leaving the problems unresolved.
The resident had to take the time and inconvenience to message the landlord on various occasions to get a response. It was only when the Ombudsman issued it with a Complaint Handling Failure Order that the landlord sent its formal response.
Further to this, the complaint response was inadequate as it did not cover all of the issued raised in the complaint.
The Ombudsman ordered the landlord to pay the resident £1,225 in compensation, update its records with vital information about the case and ensure it is compliant with the Complaint Handling Code.
In its learning from the case, Ealing said it overhauled its complaints handling process and are seeking a new contractor to improve services for residents.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “The fact we’ve had to intervene on numerous occasions during this complaint is undeniably unacceptable. The Complaint Handling Code is there to support landlords to deliver an effective complaints procedure. The timescales are clear markers for landlords to ensure residents are listened to and their concerns dealt with promptly.
“As the Complaint Handling Code becomes statutory under the Social Housing Regulation Bill, we will be exercising our powers a lot more in this area.
“I welcome the landlord’s response to this case and urge the sector to learn the wider lessons on the Complaint Handling Code and the implications for not getting it right.
“We are now hosting monthly drop-in sessions on the Code and would encourage landlords to sign up to these to ask any questions or if they need guidance on compliance.”
The Ombudsman also found maladministration for how the landlord handled reports of a leak and noise from plumbing above the flat.
In a statement, Ealing Council said: “Ealing Council strives to provide the best housing service in London.
“We are committed to providing high-quality housing services to our residents and take complaints and grievances very seriously. However, we acknowledge that, in this case, our procedures and communication failed to meet the expected standards. We recognise our shortcomings and the subsequent impact it’s had on our resident’s experience.
“We offer our sincere apologies to those affected by the level of service they received. This is something other than what any tenant should expect in our housing. This case has offered the council many lessons on improving our offering.
“Since this case was reported to us, we have taken immediate action to overhaul our internal complaint-handling process. With immediate effect, we have made access to our service easier for users. In addition, the contractor in question in this case was stood down, and we are in the process of replacing them with a new contractor to meet the needs of our residents better.
“We will be working tirelessly with our new contractor to ensure that we are better at managing repairs, complaints and keeping our tenants informed.
“The maladministration findings from the Housing Ombudsman service have allowed us to review where our standards of service were not what we should expect and have allowed us to make improvements to the service to benefit all of our residents.”