Housing Ombudsman Finds Waltham Forest Council Severe Failings with Residents


Housing Ombudsman Finds Waltham Forest Council Severe Failings with Residents

The Housing Ombudsman has made 3 findings of severe maladministration in 3 cases involving Waltham Forest Council, including poor handling of a damp and mould case involving a vulnerable resident and another resident experiencing Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) for 5 years.

In a letter to Linzi Roberts-Egan Chief Executive of Waltham Forest Council, Michael Gove, from the Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities about the three severe issues.

Case One (202217685): A vulnerable family, including an autistic child, was forced to live in substandard conditions for a year. They failed to address their request for temporary accommodation during repairs, causing them significant hardship.

They were then subjected to further disruption by having to move her family, which included an autistic son into a caravan. Throughout this ordeal, the Ombudsman highlighted poor communication, with the case inexplicably closed at one point without explanation.

Residents deserve to have their concerns addressed promptly and with empathy. The needs of those impacted by repairs must be a priority. The heartbreaking death of Awaab Ishak underscores the gravity of housing issues showing that there is no room for complacency that endangers health.

The landlord also ignored the statutory provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020, as it issued the notice to quit with just over a month’s notice period. The Act stated at this time that a minimum of 4 months’ notice would be required.

The Ombudsman ordered the landlord to pay the resident £2,737 in compensation.

Case Two (202127859): Allowed a resident to live at his mother’s property for seven years before determining that succession had not occurred, an unacceptable length of time.

This was despite communications to the tenant at the property address regarding council tax, housing benefit and a carer’s bill, demonstrating that he was clearly known to the council. This understandably caused the tenant significant distress. The local authority was therefore aware the resident was living at the property following his mother’s death.

This impact on the resident was significant and could have been avoided had it acted in accordance with its own policies.

The Ombudsman ordered the landlord to pay £4,750 in compensation.

Case Three (201900229): Failed adequately to respond to a resident’s repeated complaints regarding antisocial behaviour (ASB). Continually referred her to the police rather than taking effective action yourself. The resident endured five years of upheaval, fears over her safety and the safety of her children, and health problems as a result. You failed to provide an adequate risk assessment or action plan. Again, this is unacceptable.

The Ombudsman ordered the landlord to pay £11,300 in compensation, for the chief executive to provide a written apology to the resident and for the council to review a number of policies in relation to ASB, including its training to staff on its ASB policy and procedure, with particular focus on the use of the RAM and action plans.

The handling of these cases fell well below the standard your residents should expect. Complaints must be acted on swiftly and effectively, especially when the residents concerned are vulnerable.
Social housing residents must be able to put their trust in their landlords to provide a decent home and deal with complaints effectively.

The Social Housing Regulation Act brings in tough new regulations. This initiative reflects the government’s commitment to raising the bar for social housing. Landlords will be empowered to improve their practices proactively, ensuring residents have decent homes from the outset. This proactive approach aims to minimize the need for residents to seek resolution through the Housing Ombudsman.

Waltham Forest Council has made some changes, introducing a damp and mould taskforce, reviewing your procedures around succession and developing a new ASB procedure.

Michael Gove said he will be taking a personal interest in future changes to improve the quality of service that is delivered to the residents. Gove added, “I want you to meet with the Minister for Social Housing to discuss your work to address your failings.”

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “I recognise the challenges the housing crisis and resources are presenting to landlords. However, this context cannot excuse some of the failings in these cases, which led to significant impact on residents who were, in different ways, vulnerable.

“Running throughout these cases were missed opportunities by the landlord to put things right for the resident and rebuild the relationship.

“Instead, a lack of clarity around responsibilities and actions taken, or outstanding, alongside delays or poor communication compounded the issues and resulted in considerable distress to the residents.

“I’d urge all landlords to take in those recommendations from the report and implement them to improve services and responses to residents.”

The Full Waltham Forest Council Performance report in PDF can be found here.

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