The Housing Ombudsman has made six findings of severe maladministration for Birmingham City Council for how it handled leaks and damp and mould, as well as the associated complaint handling.

Last year the ombudsman published a Special Investigation Report into Birmingham City Council. These investigations followed the report and relate to events prior to it being published. The council has responded positively to the ombudsman’s recommendations and is making service improvements.

In Case A (202011032), the ombudsman found severe maladministration after it failed to undertake necessary damp and mould works, which the resident said impacted his health and made one room inhabitable.

After the report was first lodged, the ‘routine’ repair was completed outside of policy timescale and did not detail what action had taken place, giving no evidence that a proper repair happened.

The fact the resident continued to report issues with damp and mould after the completion of the requested repair suggests any repair was not successful.

Whilst initially the resident could not allow the landlord access at times due to medical appointments, after this the landlord continued to show up without pre-arranged appointments.

After the resident told the landlord one room was uninhabitable, it should have arranged an urgent inspection due to the extent of the mould – instead it recommended ‘an antifungal solution’ be applied, the ombudsman said.

The ombudsman ordered the council to undertake a full investigation into the damp and mould at the home, pay £1,300 in compensation and apologise to the resident.

In its learning from this case, the coucnil says it will introduce a new damp and mould strategy this year, supported by the implementation of a new complaints policy and compensation policy.

In Case B (202122577) the ombudsman found severe maladministration after the landlord left a resident and her vulnerable mother in a home with damp and mould that was described as in a “terrible state”, as well as the associated complaint handling.

Despite the damp and mould being classified as ‘severe’, the council failed to complete a damp survey or instruct a damp specialist in the first instance or when further reports of damp and mould were made a year later. Although it made some attempts to attend the property, it did not act swiftly enough.

The landlord did not provide information to show when the resident initially raised reports of damp and mould and evidence of the work it did at that time, therefore it is not known how long the residents suffered in this condition. It has also incorrectly told the ombudsman that there were no recorded vulnerabilities despite it being made aware of these.

However, it is acknowledged that the resident’s mother was offered alternative accommodation due to her disabilities.

The ombudsman ordered the council to pay £3,824 in compensation, apologise to the resident in person and conduct a review into this case and how it will improve policy and procedure as a result.

In its learning from this case, the landlord says it has increased capacity within the complaint handling service and provided additional training and monitoring of responses to prevent inaccuracies and improve response times.

In Case C (202202841) the ombudsman found severe maladministration for wholly unreasonable complaint handling after flooding impacted a residents’ home and damaged his ceiling.

The council ordered the landlord to apologise to the resident and to arrange an inspection of the resident’s ceiling by a suitably qualified person, address the resident’s structural concerns, and raise appropriate remedial works.

In its learning from this case, the landlord says it has made improvements to its record keeping and complaint handling and believes that if these cases happened now, it would not have the same failings.

In Case D (202125701), the ombudsman found severe maladministration for how the landlord handled a leak coming from the flat above for over three years and the associated complaint handling.

The council’s failure to successfully diagnose and repair the cause of the leak over a prolonged period, as well as its lack of communication throughout, was likely to have caused the resident a significant level of frustration, inconvenience and time and trouble.

After the resident first reported it, the landlord came out to inspect the property. However, after that he had to chase eight times over 18 months before any further action was taken by the landlord.

After a replacement window was unsuccessful, the resident once again reported the leak. The landlord acted appropriately by sending someone out the same day but did not seek assurances its fixes had worked. Ultimately, they did not, and the resident reported the issue again.

Over three years since the initial reporting, the landlord still needed to carry out the final repairs to the property, to which the ombudsman made an order on which was complied with.

While the landlord acted fairly by acknowledging delays in its complaint responses, its responses were inadequate and did not demonstrate that it had utilised its complaints process to put things right or learn from outcomes to improve its service, the ombudsman said.

The landlord’s failure to fully address the resident’s concerns, and its provision of inaccurate information, was likely to have caused significant frustration and inconvenience to the resident.

The ombudsman ordered the landlord’s chief executive to write an apology to the resident, to pay £1,400 in compensation and for it to carry out a survey into the property, assess the works that need doing and then ensure the resident gets a full explanation about what works are needed and what is going to be carried out.

In its learning from this case, the landlord says it has introduced enhanced escalation measures to ensure appropriate oversight is available where appointments are not kept or where repairs are not resolved first time.