Housing association A2Dominion says it has reviewed thousands of cases of mould and damp in its homes as the Housing Ombudsman has found it was responsible for two cases of ‘severe maladministration’.
The affected residents, both from Ealing, were awarded a total of £8,000 in compensation after damp and mould was left to fester for months.
In one of the cases, the ombudsman reports that a resident was left with damp, mould and a pest infestation while the housing association struggled to fix the issues including a leaky roof. It took the landlord 16 months to finally complete the necessary repairs after multiple attempts.
A contractor reportedly told A2Dominion that the home was not fit to live in for ten of the months it took for repairs to take place. The company also failed to address a pest problem with it taking the landlord 18 months to rid the accommodation of mice.
It is noted in the report that the contractor told A2Dominion that the vulnerable resident was “living in bad conditions” and the kitchen needed to “come out” as the units had rotted. The ombudsman concluded that the landlord failed to provide adequate complaint handling or evidence of robust record keeping.
The landlord had failed to acknowledge the resident’s complaint when it was first received and by the time it did, it came outside of the timescales as set out in the Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code. It also failed to keep the resident updated throughout. As the result of A2Dominion’s severe lapses it was ordered to pay the resident £4,655 and chief executive Ian Wardle was told to apologise directly to the Ealing resident.
In the second case, a vulnerable resident was left with water leaking into their bedroom for 13 months. The initial complaint contained details about how water was coming through a light fitting and plaster was crumbling due to the amount of damp present in the home. The ombudsman found that A2Dominion kept moving the date for repairs back by several months meaning the problem continued to get worse and even more repairs were needed.
The woman was unable to use her bedroom and was forced to climb an additional flight of stairs and sleep in a smaller bed. The Ombudsman found maladministration in the A2Dominion’s complaint handling as well as finding that it did not respond within sufficient timeframes and did not take into account the resident’s vulnerabilities.
A2Dominion was ordered to pay the resident £3,700 in compensation and conduct a review into how it arranges scaffolding.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “In both of these cases, residents with health conditions were let down by their landlord. The impact of these disrepair issues would be hard for any household to handle but makes it even more serious when there is a health condition involved.
“There were multiple missed opportunities to resolve these issues but these were lost which resulted in the residents living with significant disrepair for a prolonged period.
“Disrepair issues dominate our casework and I urge landlords to read our reports and find the lessons so that this does not happen to your residents. Not knowing about your residents’ vulnerabilities or knowing and not taking that into account when you deal with them is simply unacceptable.”
A2Dominion said: “We would like to offer our sincere apologies to both of our residents for the problems they experienced with damp, mould and repairs in their homes, and we acknowledge the distress this inevitably caused them. The safety of our customers remains our number one priority.
“In both cases there were significant delays in our response in terms of repairs carried out, communications with our customers and in the way we escalated their issues. Also, the amount of compensation we offered was not sufficient to cover the distress and inconvenience caused by lack of repairs.
Both customers have since been compensated in line with this ruling and we have complied with all the orders in this case. Full repair work has since been completed at both properties and further inspections will be carried out to ensure these issues are not repeated.”
In the statement, the housing association laid out plans for how it intends to change in order to improve its response to complaints. It has vowed to improve its record-keeping, the timeliness and quality of service, and the initial diagnostic for repairs and damp and mould cases.
It also says that it created a dedicated damp and mould team in 2022 which has reviewed 5,733 historic cases. Mr Blakeway added: “We welcome the landlord’s response on damp and mould as part of its dedicated team, especially the review of historic cases – this shows a landlord willing to take responsibility for its homes.”