The housing ombudsman has summoned a south London council to a meeting over its “high level of failure” after it left a tenant with barred windows for three years.
Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway has requested a meeting with Lambeth Council (Image: Guzelian)
The Housing Ombudsman has summoned a Lambeth Council to a meeting over its “high level of failure” #UKhousing
Lambeth Council has been hit with a finding of serious misconduct by the ombudsman and ordered to pay £700 in compensation for the broken windows, which were first reported to the landlord in June 2019.
The watchdog’s report highlighted how the wooden panels let in rain and cold drafts that were “intolerable” during the autumn and winter, leading to damp and mold that damaged tenants’ possessions.
Housing ombudsman Richard Blakeway has also requested a meeting with the council, which owns around 33,000 homes, writing to express concern “at the high level of failure” seen in his casework since issuing a special report to the authority in February .
Since the beginning of this year, the ombudsman has given Lambeth Council a further eight complaints handling orders. In March, the authority received two conclusions about errors or omissions regarding moisture and mold.
Blakeway said: “It is simply not acceptable to expect a resident to live in a property in this situation for such a long period of time. It is again worrying to see poor records management hindering an effective response.
“I have serious concerns that, months after our special report, we continue to see significant problems and such a high level of service failure.”
In the most recent case, the tenant reported in June 2019 that two window panels had fallen from the fifth floor to the ground. Lambeth Council then made temporary repairs with wooden boards.
Eight months later, when the windows had still not been replaced, the resident lodged a formal complaint with the landlord regarding fitness for habitation and health and safety standards.
The council said the windows would be replaced, which required scaffolding to be erected, but then delayed. In its final response to the resident’s complaint nine months later, it apologized and confirmed that a replacement window would be fitted, but gave no timetable.
In October 2021, with scaffolding erected but new window panels still not installed, the tenant complained to the Housing Ombudsman, who then carried out an investigation.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found that Lambeth Council’s repair records were not exhaustive and it was “not clear” why the windows have not yet been replaced.
“Although some delays were caused by the pandemic, this does not adequately explain a delay of over a year for the repair, which posed a potential health and safety risk to the resident, her child and other residents in the area who may be injured by falling windows ,” the report states.
In response to the latest ombudsman case, Lambeth Council apologized for what had happened.
A local authority spokesman added: “We are disappointed by this situation and are working hard to resolve these issues. We are undertaking a full stock survey of all our homes so we are able to get ahead of complaints and prioritize work more efficiently.
“We have launched a new arbitration scheme, which should better support residents getting compensation when they have been let down.
“Lambeth has more than 33,000 council homes and we have introduced extra training for staff and contractors to better handle repair work on these properties. This is supported by a new online system where people can report repairs along with photos of work to be carried out.
“We have renewed all our repair and maintenance contracts to improve service. These are complemented by our new in-house repair team, called Community Works, which focuses on complex municipal repairs and supports the external contractors – all of which improves the quality and speed of our service.”
In February, the Housing Ombudsman published a special report at Lambeth Council. It revealed that in 2021, the authority was issued five complaints misconduct orders and was the subject of six complaints that led to findings of wrongdoing.
At the time, a Lambeth Council spokesman said in a response published on the watchdog’s website: “Lambeth has been working intensively with the housing ombudsman over several months to resolve the issues he has raised with us.
“We will continue to engage positively with the ombudsman and we are committed to tackling any issues raised to ensure we provide the best possible service to all our tenants.”
In cases of serious fault or negligence, the Housing Ombudsman calls on the landlord to make a statement of learning from the complaint, but it said it had not received one from Lambeth Council about the window case.
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