Social landlord slammed by Ombudsman for mould and rat infestations

Social landlord slammed by Ombudsman for mould and rat infestations

0:05 AM, 18th December 2023, About 5 months ago 4

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Social housing landlord Sovereign has been criticised by the Housing Ombudsman for its failure to provide safe and secure housing to two households who suffered from a rat infestation, and another with damp and mould.

The Ombudsman made four findings of severe maladministration against Sovereign, two for each case, and ordered it to apologise, carry out repairs, and pay compensation to the affected residents.

The Ombudsman said the learning from these reports should help landlords improve their services and protect those who rely on social housing.

‘Requests from residents were either dismissed, deflected or delayed’

Richard Blakeway, the Housing Ombudsman, said: “Throughout both these cases service requests from residents were either dismissed, deflected or delayed, and there was some evidence of poor attitudes towards residents.

“This was unfair and unreasonable.

“Whether unapologetic complaint responses or using language such as ‘washing their hands’ about an issue, landlords should be approaching complaints and resident concerns in a more empathetic way.”

He added: “These cases underline the need for timely intervention by landlords to remedy the issues that residents are facing.

“Both also highlight the importance of good complaint handling, with missed opportunities where the landlord could have put something right sooner or help rebuild the relationship with the resident.”

Resident reported damp and mould in his property

In Case A, a resident reported damp and mould in his property in 2021, which resulted in him losing the use of his bedroom and experiencing significant distress and inconvenience.

He also feared for his health, as he had a lung infection that his doctor attributed to the mould spores.

The Ombudsman found that Sovereign delayed in resolving the issue for more than two years and handled the complaint poorly.

The complaint responses were late, uninformed, unapologetic and incomplete. The landlord did not follow its own two-stage complaints policy and did not offer any compensation despite promising to do so.

The Ombudsman ordered the chief executive of Sovereign to apologise in writing and arrange for the outstanding repair works to be done.

The landlord was also ordered to pay nearly £4,000 in compensation.

Resident complained of a rat infestation in his property

In Case B, a resident complained of a rat infestation in his property in 2017, which caused him further distress and inconvenience. He said the rats had damaged his belongings and posed a health hazard.

The Ombudsman found that Sovereign repeatedly failed to acknowledge the seriousness of the reports and take appropriate remedial action to prevent further infestation.

The landlord also failed to conduct any meaningful investigation or decision-making activity or issue any response to the resident.

The Ombudsman said Sovereign was aware of the infestation for some time but did not carry out repairs quickly enough.

When it did, the works were unsatisfactory, and one contractor even fell through the ceiling. A year later, the resident was still chasing the landlord for proper repairs.

Landlord said it was ‘washing their hands’ of the matter

The Ombudsman also said Sovereign did not follow the advice of its pest controller, who recommended monthly inspections and, instead, the landlord said it was ‘washing their hands’ of the matter, as it did not think there was anything it could do to prevent further infestations.

Six years after the initial report, and four years after the first inspection, the resident said the rats had returned and there were structural issues outstanding. The works were only completed a year after this.

The Ombudsman ordered Sovereign to apologise, carry out repairs, and pay compensation to the resident.

In a statement, Sovereign apologised for its complaint handling and has paid compensation to the tenants concerned.


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Comments

Michael Booth

10:21 AM, 19th December 2023, About 5 months ago

If this was a small landlord they would be hammered .

Peter Lassman

8:30 AM, 20th December 2023, About 5 months ago

Isn’t it Social Housing groups that are always Slamming the PR sector, Mould & Rats sounds like it should have been a very big fine ? If it was a private Landlord who owned these properties it’d be a 10s of Thousands £s fine

Stella

11:17 AM, 20th December 2023, About 5 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Michael Booth at 19/12/2023 - 10:21
We would be hammered over a lot less

I object to these very same councils insisting that we should pay for the treatment of infestations such as rats, mice, bed bugs and also mould which has clearly been caused by the tenants lifestyle.
The licence agreements I have state that the Landlord is responsible for the treatment of infestations even if the tenants live on top of a pile of rubbish of their own making or if they have lived in the property for several years and they have now got bed bugs.

Michael Clegg

21:28 PM, 10th January 2024, About 5 months ago

Hi I'm in the same situation as the tenant with a rat infestation it has been ongoing for 5 years I'm with sovereign housing. Can anyone advise what I can do .I'm writing this as rats run around in my loft sovereign have failed to do the work on the outside of the flats resulting in a rat infestation please help

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