Treatment of tenants: Housing Ombudsman expects better of Islington Council

The Housing Ombudsman has told Islington Council to improve its handling of complaints from housing tenants

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

Una O'Halloran, executive member for housing Islington council apologises for poor housing while sitting at the desk in the main council chamber
Una O’Halloran, executive member for housing Islington council apologises for poor housing. Photo: LDRS/ Julia Gregory

A housing watchdog told town hall bosses to pull their socks up in the way they deal with complaints from residents.

Islington council is amongst 32 social housing landlords criticised for their failings in more than half the cases brought to the Housing Ombudsman.

It ruled maladministration or partial maladministration in 55% of the complaints about Islington council.  It found maladministration featured in over three quarters of cases it investigated at five social landlords.

Maladministration is where the landlord “failed to comply with its legal obligations, its policies and procedures or unreasonably delayed in dealing with the matter.”

Out of 21 Islington cases it looked into  between April 2021 and March 2022  it found maladministration in eight, or 38% and partial maladministration in six, or 29% of the cases.

The housing ombudsman Richard Blakeway told the council’s chief executive Linzi Roberts-Egan: “Clearly such a high rate of maladministration is concerning and for issues to occur across this proportion of findings suggests improvements could be made to prevent complaints.”

The council made reasonable redress in four cases, or 19%, with no evidence of maladministration in a further two case , or 10% and one case (5%) was outside its jurisdiction.

Mr  Blakeway said the cost of living crisis and aging homes are challenging for landlords “but a positive complaints handling culture remains vital.”

Cases included problems in  replacing uneven paving slabs in the garden of a resident with multiple sclerosis, handling of complaints by another resident about anti-social behaviour and damp and mould problems.

The council was ordered to pay out hundreds of pounds for the way it dealt with the problems.

The Housing Ombudsman is also carrying out an urgent review into the way the council dealt with damp and mould problems after  “its poor handling”  of reports and  complaints.

Una O’Halloran, the executive member for homes and communities responded: “We want everyone in Islington to have a place to call home, which is secure, decent and genuinely affordable.”

She said: “We’re very sorry that in some cases concerns raised by our residents were not resolved more quickly and effectively and had to be taken to the Housing Ombudsman.”

The council is learning from the complaints to see how it can improve.

Cllr O’ Halloran said: “We’re reviewing all the cases highlighted by the ombudsman to see how they could have been handled differently and better, and contacting all of the residents involved to make sure the steps we’ve taken were effective.  We will also review our complaints system.”

Last month she unveiled extra measures to deal with problems of damp and mould after  the case of a family forced to abandon their  bedrooms were highlighted by housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa.

The council offered the family alternative accommodation and is reviewing what went wrong in the way it dealt with the problem.

Steps include reviewing all work done to tackle mould and damp over the last three years and a phone line for people concerned their health is impacted by the problem. It can be reached via the Housing Direct phone line 0800 694 3344.

The council is also pumping an extra £1m a year into a new dam and mould team and training other staff to spot the signs if they notice them on visits for other reasons.

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