125,000-home association hit with severe maladministration finding after resident took his own life after nine months of noise disturbance
The Housing Ombudsman has urged social housing providers to take noise nuisance more seriously after a Clarion resident suffering from disturbances took his own life.
The Ombudsman has today made a severe maladministration finding against Clarion, saying the landlord “did not tailor its response” to the noise complaints effectively despite the tenant having vulnerabilities.
The noise issues, which the Ombudsman said went on for nine months, were found to have caused suffering to the resident and exacerbated his existing mental health issues.
The Ombudsman’s report stated that in the same month that the resident reported the noise issues, which were related to children jumping on the wooden flooring in the property above, the tenant attempted an overdose.
The Ombudsman said: “We determined that Clarion’s lack of consideration of the resident’s vulnerability when handling his complaints about noise led to the resident suffering.
“Despite the landlord recording vulnerabilities for the resident, it did not tailor its responses effectively.”
The Housing Ombudsman said the case shows why its recommendations to the sector last year to tackle noise nuisance are so important.
The Ombudsman said: “We were clear that this was a significant issue for the sector after disrepair. The sector needs to take action to ensure that noise transference is treated with the seriousness it requires”.
Its ‘Spotlight’ report last year made 32 recommendations to tackle the issue, including looking at refurbishment, neighbourhood management and anti-social behaviour policies, allocations and record -keeping, information-sharing and complaint handling.
Following the initial complaint to Clarion, the 125,000-home association sent a standard antisocial behaviour (ASB) letter and agreed to speak to the neighbour. It was noted that Clarion did not carry out a risk assessment.
Two months after the initial reporting of the issue, a Clarion tenancy sustainment officer was allocated to have weekly contact with the resident.
Clarion said it would not install sound monitoring equipment due to the covid-19 lockdown. The Ombudsman found that this was not a reasonable position to take, as government guidance said that repairs and safety inspections could be carried out despite restrictions.
The resident filed two further noise reports, which were responded to with the standard ASB letter he was sent previously.
Over the course of four months, the resident completed 18 noise reports and sent noise recordings to the landlord, but due to some software issues, not all were listened to.
The landlord installed some sound monitoring equipment for a short period, but then removed it and took no further action.
It also did not act on the tenant’s rehousing request. Ten days before the resident ended his life, the landlord closed the case.
The Housing Ombudsman’s spotlight report on noise complaints in October 2022, stated that there was a 43% maladministration rate across 181 noise cases referred to the Ombudsman.
In response to the Ombudsman’s report, Clarion said: “We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family and an unreserved apology for all shortcomings in the service we provided the resident. We recognise that our communication process should have been far better and we accept the recommendations of the Ombudsman with humility”.
The statement added: “We continue to make improvements to how we record and act on vulnerability of our residents and we have reviewed our automated letters process to ensure an appropriate response is issued in line with our vulnerability support policy. Our tenancy sustainment and welfare team, who worked with the resident alongside external agencies, also offer advice to our residents and signpost to extra support when required”.