The Housing Ombudsman has released a new Spotlight report advocating a zero-tolerance approach on damp and mould. Our own experience confirms that this seems to be an issue of growing concern amongst tenants and this hard hitting report is both timely and welcomed.
‘Spotlight on damp and mould – It’s not lifestyle’, examined 410 complaints investigated about 142 landlords over a two-year period, with maladministration found in 56%, rising to 64% for complaint handling alone. The report also draws on over 500 responses to the Housing Ombudsman’s call for evidence issued earlier this year. This failure rate was often the result of inaction, excessive delays or poor communication.
The investigation found a sense of frustration among residents, saying they felt they were not being heard or that their landlords were not taking their repair reports or complaints seriously. This theme needs to be taken very seriously, particularly in light of broader sector changes in light of the Social Housing White Paper.
Whilst the report recognises the challenges for landlords in tackling the issues – including overcrowding, poverty, the age and design of homes – it is also categorical in its position on how landlords should avoid inferring blame on residents due to ‘lifestyle’, when it is often not solely their issue, and take responsibility for resolving problems.
The report identifies best practice and makes 26 recommendations for landlords to implement, including:
- greater use of intelligence and data to prevent issues
- adopting a consolidated policy for actions it may take based on diagnosis
- reviewing communications with residents to improve tone
- improve access to complaints to resolve issues, including alongside disrepair claims, and learn from them.
Further details can be found on the Housing Ombudsman website here.