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Ombudsman raises concern with PA Housing after double severe maladministration finding

The Housing Ombudsman has made two findings of severe maladministration for PA Housing in two different cases.
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The Housing Ombudsman has made two findings of severe maladministration for PA Housing in two different cases. In one case the landlord left a disabled resident with damp growing in the bedroom with the other case leaving the resident waiting 585 working days for a response to their complaint.

The two findings come just four months after the last severe maladministration finding for the organisation, leading the Ombudsman to raise concerns with the new leadership at the landlord in a meeting earlier this year. 

Many of the failings, including leaving residents in unacceptable conditions for nearly two years and not handling complaints effectively, were issues highlighted in the previous case.

In the Case A, the landlord failed to carry out the necessary repairs for 18 months, including having to redo some of the works in relation to damp in the bedroom in which the resident’s child lost his possessions.

Given the resident’s situation disability and the adverse effect caused, the landlord’s multiple failings resulted in a severe maladministration finding that was not adequately remedied by the compensation offer.

The landlord took until its stage one complaint response, some two months after the first reporting of the repairs, to undertake a survey. This is despite the knowledge that the house had been deemed not suitable for the residents’ needs by an Occupational Therapist (OT). The delay in the inspection demonstrated an unreasonable lack of urgency.

Getting a quote for these works then took the landlord four weeks, in which the resident was not kept updated, causing her uncertainty and distress.

Five months after the initial repairs report, the works started but did not finish. An inspection took place to see what further works was outstanding but the resident was not informed about timescales and therefore her distress and uncertainty was unnecessarily prolonged.

Despite being chased by the resident and being informed of new leaks in the bedroom, there were months where no repairs were carried out at all. Records indicate that during this time the landlord still had not considered all of the recommendations from the OT report, including ramp access to the home.

There was no evidence that the landlord has effectively managed the works by agreeing a schedule and sequence of the works, or that there has been effective oversight of the works.

The Ombudsman also found maladministration for how the landlord handled a rehousing request, including whether the landlord has considered her vulnerabilities when assessing whether she should be rehoused.

The Ombudsman ordered the landlord to apologise, pay £2,500 in compensation and consider the resident’s claims over damaged possessions.

In Case B, the Ombudsman found severe maladministration for complaints handling after the landlord provided a stage two response 585 working days after the resident asked to escalate her complaint about a roof defect and some 570 working days outside the 15 working day timescale set out in the landlord’s complaints procedure.

The excessive delay in dealing with the complaint meant that the landlord failed to resolve matters at the earliest opportunity and missed opportunities to improve its relationship with the resident.

Further to this, there was no acknowledgement of, or apology for, the complaints handling delays in the landlord’s final complaint response. Neither did the landlord consider the impact that the delay had on the resident and what the landlord might do to address that, or how the landlord had sought to learn from the events that led to the delay.

The Ombudsman also found maladministration for its response to problems with the roof and balcony.

The Ombudsman ordered the landlord to pay the resident £1,175 in compensation, inspect the home for any outstanding works and undertake complaints handling training for staff.

“In both cases, we found similar issues to that of our previous severe maladministration finding published just four months ago. That is unacceptable.

“The landlord must learn lessons from these cases and we will be following up with the senior leadership to ensure it does so.

“Once again, an investigation reveals how a landlord has not responded effectively to a residents’ vulnerabilities. The cumulative lesson for the sector of these cases across several landlords is that it needs to get far better at recognising and responding appropriately to residents with vulnerabilities.

“The length of time the resident waited for a response in our other investigation showed a complete disregard for the resident and that it did not consider the complaint in line with the Ombudsman’s dispute resolution principles.

“I welcome the landlord’s response on its learning from this case and the changes being made to improve its service. I would encourage other landlords to consider the learning the case offers for their own services.”

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman

In all cases of severe maladministration, the Ombudsman invites the landlord to provide a learning statement.

PA Housing learning statement:

We are sorry for the unacceptable experience that our residents have had in these two cases. Our response to both residents was simply not good enough and we accept the severe maladministration findings from the Housing Ombudsman.  

Our entire focus in the coming months is on making sure that we have the people and processes in place to prevent any other residents having a similar experience. As part of our improvement plan, we are working on the following:  

  • Improving the frequency of our direct and written communications about the progress of a repair to residents to ensure any information provided is clear, consistent and sets realistic expectations. In conjunction with this, we are reviewing our compensation policy to ensure in the case of any delays to resolve a repair the impact on our resident is fairly considered.
  • Having failed to provide a record of the repairs for one of these cases, we have made changes to strengthen our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, to ensure all contact, including correspondence about repairs, with our residents is accurately recorded.
  • Recruiting dedicated members to our repairs team who will act as the main point of contact for our residents and ensure their needs are central to managing a repair involving different departments and contractors.

Revising our approach for managing complex repairs to ensure there is correct ownership and proactive management and communication throughout the repair until completion. News item on website: https://www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/2023/03/23/ombudsman-issues-warning-to-pa-housing-after-double-severe-maladministration-findings/

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