Special investigations instigated over issues with damp and mould, repairs and complaint handling

The Housing Ombudsman has announced today that it has launched special investigations into Camden Council, Hackney Council and Hyde Group due to issues including damp and mould, repairs, and complaint handling.

Richard Blakeway Photo

Richard Blakeway, the Housing Ombudsman

The Ombudsman stated that the three landlords have either high maladministration rates or increasing findings in these areas, including several findings of severe maladministration. 

It added that the findings in the report will be used to drive learning among these landlords and the wider sector.

Special investigations are carried out under paragraph 49 of the Housing Ombudsman scheme, to see if individual casework issues are indicative of “systemic failings” by a landlord.

As part of a paragraph 49 investigation, the Ombudsman can ask the landlord to provide information relating to complaint cases, including correspondence, records, minutes of meetings and landlord policies and procedures.

Last month, six complaints were made to the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) about the Ombudsman’s maladministration rate. A senior housing figure told Housing Today that “quite a lot of weight” is placed on the maladministration rate, and it is one of the measures used to launch a paragraph 49 investigation.

Hyde Group said: “We’re sorry that we’ve let some of our customers down and we’re taking every complaint we receive extremely seriously.

“We’re looking forward to working with the Housing Ombudsman and welcome the opportunity to reflect on where we’ve got things wrong. We’ll also be able to demonstrate how we’ve changed, so that we’re listening to customers, and working with them to improve their services, by putting their needs first. We’ve made fundamental changes to how we work since some of these complaints were raised a couple of years ago.”

Hyde Group stated that it spent an extra £2m on addressing damp and mould issues last year. It also said it improved its complaints handling system and hired more colleagues to resolve cases faster.

Hackney Council said: “We recognise and apologise that at times the service we have provided our residents has not met the standards we expect and they deserve.

“Changes we have introduced over the last 18 months to the way we work is resulting in faster response times for completing repairs and tackling leaks as well as damp and mould. We have made a commitment to inspect reports of damp and mould within 5 days and to visit reports of leaks by the end of the next day.

“While we face many challenges including maintaining and repairing an ageing housing stock, our work towards fully achieving both of these targets is reflected by an improvement across all of our tenant satisfaction measures. However, we know we still have more to do.

“We will work closely with the Ombudsman to look at how we can build on this recent improvement to further improve the quality of life for our residents.”

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Camden Council cabinet member for Better Homes, councillor Meric Apak, said: “We want every one of our tenants to live in a home that is safe, dry, and warm. And we are absolutely determined to deliver on this despite the mounting financial challenge that we face. After years of underfunding from government, councils with large housing stocks like ours have been stretched to the limit and resources have been overwhelmed.

“However, we have not shied away. Instead, we have set up new teams to tackle damp and mould and to make repairs. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Ombudsman at this crucial time, as we establish higher standards across our services.

“The damp and mould cases that were raised by the Ombudsman some time ago have now been resolved. However, there is more work to be done. Our commitment to our residents is to continue working with urgency and determination to deliver the high standard of housing that they deserve.”

Camden Council established a damp and mould team last year, which it says has worked on over 6,000 homes.