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Ombudsman raises concerns about window-related complaints

The Housing Ombudsman has recently raised urgent concerns about window-related complaints in social housing.
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The Housing Ombudsman has issued an open letter to Chief Executives of social housing providers, expressing deep concerns regarding the handling of some window-related complaints.

The Ombudsman’s letter highlights a troubling pattern identified from recent casework, where residents’ complaints about window disrepair or health and safety issues have not always been adequately addressed by landlords.

The letter acknowledges that window-related complaints often involve complex issues ranging from design concerns and prolonged disrepair, exacerbated by a lack of funding and historic underinvestment in social housing infrastructure. The Ombudsman also knows this is an area where many landlords are focused and proactive. However, its investigations also show that landlords have not always responded in a timely way, and sometimes important repairs have been deferred.

The Ombudsman’s casework has revealed three main issues:

  • landlords failing to consider individual household circumstances during risk assessments, leading to overlooked health and safety concerns;
  • delays in conducting repairs, often postponed due to cost considerations and planned cyclical works; and
  • inadequate communication with residents regarding the operation and safety of newly installed windows.

To address these issues, the Ombudsman plans to publish decisions on window-related complaints shortly, which will support landlord learning and improve future responses. Engagement with regulatory bodies is also underway to share more information on these matters.

The Ombudsman encourages all social housing providers to review their own window-related complaints proactively and to implement the following core lessons:

  • conduct thorough risk assessments based on individual household circumstances, ensuring appropriate actions are recognized, responded to, and documented.
  • engage independent surveyors and ensure that responses to their recommendations are reasonable, clear, and consistent.
  • justify decisions to defer repairs or opt for limited repairs not primarily on cost but in line with legal obligations.
  • provide clear, comprehensive, and accessible information to residents regarding the operation of new windows.

Throughout these core themes strong knowledge and information management is essential.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: We have serious concerns about the handling of window-related complaints.

“I am taking the unusual step of writing an open letter to all social landlords because we are seeing unsafe living conditions, where windows are falling onto the ground or boarded-up for prolonged periods.

“It is becoming routine for me to see cases where repairs to windows are delayed, sometimes for years, because of resources.

“Safe, secure and well-maintained windows are fundamental to a decent home. I know many landlords are being proactive and it is important, given the operational pressures facing the sector, that all are.

“There are clear and consistent failings in our casework and we are committed to working collaboratively with landlords to share lessons to help them meet the needs of residents.

“These issues also underscore the chronic underinvestment in social housing and need for a national conversation leading to a new, revised Decent Homes Standard alongside building the next generation of social homes.”

Further information and free learning resources will soon be available through the Ombudsman’s Centre for Learning.

 

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