Council slapped with six findings of severe maladministration

The Housing Ombudsman has made six findings of severe maladministration by Birmingham City Council, for how it handled leaks, damp and mould and complaints about these issues.

One case saw a resident’s disabled mother left in damp and mould, with informal emails from a contractor received after submitting a complaint about the “terrible state” of the property.

Another case described how one resident was left with a leak from the flat above for more than three years. After the landlord visited the property after the first report of the leak, the tenant had to chase eight times over 18 months before any further action was taken.

A “traumatic and stressful” event happened to another tenant when a sprinkler activated flood impacted their home and ceiling.

The landlord initially responded well and completed a temporary decant and initial good efforts were made by the repairs contractor. But the Ombudsman says the landlord’s complaint handling “failed to even address, never mind resolve, the resident’s primary concerns” about his cracked ceiling and would have added to what was already a distressing episode for him.

The Ombudsman also found the landlord failed to undertake necessary damp and mould works for one tenant, who said the experience impacted his health and made one room inhabitable.

An urgent inspection of the room should have been arranged due to the extent of the mould, instead the landlord recommended ‘an antifungal solution’ be applied.

A damning report into the council was published by the Ombudsman last year in severe failings across complaints procedures and the quality of housing.

The new investigation follows the report and relates to events prior to it being published.
But the Ombudsman does say that the council has responded positively to its recommendations and is making service improvements. A new complaints and compensation policy has since been introduced since the special report.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “Throughout these cases there were similar points of failure in the landlord’s process, whether inadequate diagnosis of the problem, failing to escalate issues, or delays often caused by missing appointments. The lack of communication further undermined resident’s confidence in the landlord’s actions.

“It is positive to see the progress that the landlord has made on a number of these areas since the special investigation report. It is essential residents’ experience improvements in housing management and it is encouraging that the landlord is confidence that that similar outcomes would not be repeated. The complaints the landlord receives in future will reveal the truth.

Birmingham City Council said in a statement: “The Council fully accepts the findings of the Housing Ombudsman in these cases and has apologised to the residents for the failures identified and complied with the orders and recommendations made.

“We accept that no tenant should have to make repeated requests for repairs, or need to complain before an issue is appropriately investigated and responded to. Where we fail to deliver the service tenants expect of us, we should be able to put things right first time and offer appropriate redress to recognise where we have let our tenants down”.

Click here to sign up to receive our new South West business news...