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Ombudsman raps council for delayed damp repairs, finds severe maladministration

Great Yarmouth Borough Council failed to deal with mould growth throughout a resident’s home that was causing damage, and then delayed in putting right faulty improvement works that worsened the situation, an investigation by the Housing Ombudsman has found.

The Ombudsman found severe maladministration for the failings, which had a significant impact on the resident’s living conditions. 

The investigation found that the landlord, Yarmouth Council, failed to conduct any works to address the resident’s reports of mould growth at their property for several months, despite reports that this was causing damage.

Other improvement works carried out by the council likely exacerbated the mould growth problem, according to the report.

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It took more than 12 months to put right failures in its installation of new windows and doors at the property. These failings had a significant impact on the resident’s living conditions and the council’s compensation award of £500 did not offer sufficient redress for this, the Ombudsman said.

Following the resident’s complaint, the council failed to issue a stage one response and delayed in providing responses at each stage of the complaints process. It also delayed in answering some aspects of the resident’s complaint and did not advise of the potential recourse of a liability claim for damaged possessions.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found severe maladministration by the council in its handling of the repairs and improvement works to the resident’s property and service failure for its complaint handling.

In light of its findings, the Ombudsman recommended the council apologise to the resident and pay an additional compensation of £1,700. It also called on the council to review its handling of the case to avoid similar situations. 

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, branded the council’s delay in addressing the damp a “serious failure”.

He added: “The resident then had to raise concerns about the quality of the improvement works. It would have been appropriate for the council to prioritise putting those works right given the impact on the resident and that it was already aware of a pre-existing mould growth problem in the property. There is no evidence that it considered the resident’s concerns about the impact and that was a further serious failure. 

“I welcome the landlord’s response to our findings and the changes it has made to the relevant procedures and processes. I would encourage other landlords to consider the learning this case offers.”

A spokesperson for Great Yarmouth Borough Council apologised for the mistakes made.

The council added: “We manage 5,700 homes providing detailed planned maintenance and upkeep regimes, and in the vast majority of cases we make prompt repairs where individual issues arise. That was sadly not the case here, and we had already apologised and offered compensation to the tenant before the case was reviewed by the Ombudsman.

“We are very grateful for the Ombudsman’s report and, although some items have been delayed due to the nature of the work and additional complications of safe working through the Covid-19 pandemic, we are working with the tenant to put things right. We have also made changes to our procedures around major works and the monitoring of contractors, and reviewed and updated our processes for ordering and managing work.

“We are sorry that our tenant and their family did not receive the proper care and attention to their home that they deserved, and once again we apologise to them for this.”

Adam Carey

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