Wealden District Council
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Housing Complaints

The Council has a corporate Complaints Policy and Procedure. Which sets out our 2 stage process. Here you will also find details about the Housing Ombudsman Service.

Complaints Handling Code

The Housing Ombudsman has issued guidance on what it expects from all landlords when dealing with complaints. 

We have assessed our compliance against the code and this was:

  • Taken to our Cabinet Advisory Group in June 2022.
  • Discussed with our Complaints, Performance and Customer Satisfaction Panel  in July 2022.

Completed Complaints Code-Self-Assessment-Form 2022

Details Of Housing Complaints 

Below are details of all the complaints made against the whole Housing Service during  2021-22 (1 April 2021 until 31 March 2022). 

Definition of terms:

Upheld – the investigating Officer considered the Council had made mistakes or provided a poor service. Sometimes called justified.

Not upheld Stage 1 – the investigating Officer considered the Council to have acted correctly or that it had made mistakes but had already done what would be expected to put things right. Sometimes called unjustified.

Not Upheld at Stage 2 – where there is no new information provided and/or the complaint had been fully and appropriately responded to at Stage 1.

Partially upheld – the investigating officer found that the Council got some things wrong, but not all those complained about or there was no negative effect on anyone.

Withdrawn – complainant withdraws their complaint.

Stage 2 denied – where the complainant had not provided sufficient evidence that warranted escalation.

Summary of the Complaint

Service

Outcome and how the complainant was resolved (if applicable)

Did the complaint escalate to Stage 2?

The outcome

The serving of a Community Protection Warning and lack of assistance to move.

Housing Management

Not upheld.

Mediation was offered and accepted.

No

Issue of a Community Protection Warning regarding failure to wear a face mask in communal areas.

Housing Management

Not Upheld.  The warning was justified in light of the complainant’s non-compliance.

No

Lack of response to a request for work to be carried out in accordance with specific points of the contract referring to grass reinstatements; and inspection of tree stakes etc.

Housing Management

Not Upheld.  This was a repeat complaint; the complainant had been previously advised that the tree reported is not dangerous.

No

Lack of action taken by Wealden in relation to abusive, homophobic and threatening behaviour from neighbour.

Housing Management

Not Upheld. Members of Wealden Housing Team had investigated the complainants concerns and had liaised with the Police and members of the Traveller Liaison Team.

Meeting with partners, complainant and carer to be arranged by the Council.

Yes but denied.

.

Lack of response to the vacant Shared Ownership Bungalow property at Newnham Way.

Housing Management

Not upheld. Complainant had received correspondence from the council regarding the vacant property.

No

Unhelpful behaviour of Housing Officer and amount of information required for housing application.

Housing Options & Homelessness

Not upheld. The email evidence on file showed how the officer had had regular communication with the complainant and tried to help them..Complainant was advised of where they could go for help with this process.

Yes. Not upheld.

The Council acted in a discriminatory way as it refused to put up a boundary fence on a neighbours boundary and refused a disability facilities grant to erect same fence.

Housing Management/Property Services

Not upheld. Decision was in accordance with the published Housing Fencing Plan Additionally the provision of fencing to secure the property for a guide dog does not meet the criteria for a disabled facilities grant as laid down in legislation. 

Yes. Not upheld.

Failure to repair leak resulting in damage to furniture.  Requested compensation to cover the cost of replacement.

Property Services

Partially upheld. On the basis that after the initial unforeseen leak, the Council failed to undertake an effective repair.

Dealt with as an insurance claim.

No

Non receipt of Insurance documentation.

Housing Management

Not upheld.  Documents had been delayed because of the Council appointing a new contractor.

No

Extra service charges payable in 2021-22

and why leaseholders are paying more than tenants/those renting.

Housing Management

Not upheld. In a previous complaint based on service charges in 2020-21, the complainant was informed that leaseholders incur additional charges that tenants do not as per the Service Charges Policy.

Yes.  Not upheld.

Complaint about Leasehold and Tenant Service Charges and the differences.

Housing Management

Not upheld. The complainant was referred to Service Charge Policy which clearly sets out the service charge elements of different residents.

Yes. Not upheld.

Complaint against Housing officer, elected member and Housing department with regards to anti-social behaviour and trespass by Council tenants and removal of a fence.

Housing Management and Property Service

Not upheld. Tenants of the Council had admitted the fence had been removed without consent and agreed to reinstate the fence. The works were completed.

No

Complaint that the grass at their property is longer than it should be according to the terms of the contract with Idverde.

Housing Management

Not upheld. That month was particularly wet and so it would not be possible to cut the grass without damaging the area.

Yes but denied.

Corporate abuse of family member and breach of Data Protection legislation. Failure to respond to emails.

Housing Options & Homelessness

Not upheld. Complainant falsely identified themselves as a practice nurse for the third party housing applicant when contacting the Council. Personal information on the third party was not disclosed in line with the Data Protection Act 2018.  

No

Following the sale of a property where the owner had received financial assistance. Complainant alleged that there had been failure to implement rules and conditions concerning Housing Renewal Assistance. Furthermore, that the rules and conditions published were ambiguous.

Property Services

Not upheld. The repayment condition clearly stated on the approval documentation that the assistance will be repayable in full on sale of the property.

No

Breach of Performance Standards by Idverde the Council’s grounds maintenance contractors.

Housing Management

Not upheld. Two weeks after the contractors have visited you would expect to find debris on the path.

Yes but denied

Unsolicited offer of accommodation resulting in complainant and partner being branded by our system as being guilty of anti-social behaviour.

Housing Options & Homelessness 

Not upheld.  Applicants convictions made them unsuitable for retirement living. The pre-populated fields on our computer system meant that the closest match to register the bid’s disqualification was Anti-Social Behaviour.

No

Breach of Performance Standards by Idverde the Council’s grounds maintenance contractors.

Housing Management

Not upheld. Previously responded to the same issues and the Council’s position had not changed.

Yes but denied.

Repeated failure to resolve access issues to Homemove.

Housing Options and Homelessness

Not upheld. Complainant had been sent detailed instructions regarding how to access the Sussex Homemove site in order to bid on advertised properties. Also advised on where and how to access support.

No

Numerous failings concerning the assigning of a tenancy agreement by Wealden and move to a smaller property. Staff failed to respond to requests for updates. 

Housing Management

Not upheld. However, given the upset and misunderstanding about moving dates and terminations, as a gesture of good will, the debt on the complainant’s previous address was removed.

No

Failure to repair footpath in rear garden.

Property Services

Partially upheld. Works were not eligible for Disabled Facilities Grant works but on accepting this path was the main access to the property, the works were placed on the planned programme of work.  It was accepted that priority should have been given to the complainant’s path within the programme and this did not happen.

No

Failure to respond to concerns and repair damage caused by refurbishment.

Property Services

Not upheld. Property had been inspected.

The contractor has agreed to provide a gesture of goodwill payment of £100 in relation to the furniture damage.

No

Concerns of estimated service charge cost 2020-21.

Housing Management

Not upheld – an explanation had been given to the concerns in this complaint, in a previous complaint response.  

No

Failure to provide 2019-20 service charge invoices.

Housing Management

Not upheld. An explanation had already been given to the concerns in this complaint, in a previous response to a complaint.

No

Concerns over the bidding process and local connection.

Housing Options & Homelessness

Not upheld. The housing applicant did not have a parish local connection. Complainant given advice..

Yes.  Not upheld.

Inadequate accommodation for a tenant and three children and failure to respond to emails / calls.

Housing Options & Homelessness

Not upheld. The complainant had been placed in Band A, which is the highest priority band for housing. Additionally, the file showed that the Allocations Team frequently communicated with the complainant.

Yes.  Not upheld.

Numerous concerns about the replacement of the communal front door. Including lack of consultation, lack of keys to front door, limit on trade access, intercom access and repair issues.

Property Services

Not upheld.  Issues experienced had largely been due to residents losing keys, possible tampering with the system or refusal of the entry phone within the flat. A consultation had been carried out in 2015/16.

No

Dissatisfied with accommodation.

Housing Options & Homelessness

Not upheld. Complainant had lived in the accommodation for over 4 years and had not complained until now.

Yes. Not upheld.

Unhappy with only being able to communicate via email, dissatisfied with accommodation and the way the complainant had been treated.

Housing Options & Homelessness

Not upheld. The Council’s Legal Services team had written to the complainant imposing restrictions upon their contact with Wealden Council staff members due to abusive, threatening and persistent e-mails and telephone calls to this Council.  Sussex police were notified of the behaviour and a Community Protection Warning was served.

No

Lack of action by the Council in repairing heating and hot water system resulting in 17 days without hot water or heating and rudeness by housing staff.

Property Services

Partially Upheld.  First part of complaint was upheld – relating to the heating and hot water system repair.  We failed to undertake an effective repair as timely as we would have wished due to delays because of the availability of parts and the diagnoses of a second fault.  £200 compensation offered.

.

No

Lack of response to vacant shared ownership bungalow.

 

Housing Management

Not upheld. The sale of the property was already in hand. The complainant had also been previously advised on how the sale would be prioritised.

No

Numerous – around shortage of council housing, the lack of planning to build more homes, funding for new homes from central government. Why there are no internal property images on Sussex Homemove. Why more new homes are not being built for disabled people. Being asked about employment was discriminatory with complainant’s disability.

Housing Options & Homelessness

Not upheld. Many issues raised fall outside the scope of Wealden’s remit and are matters that the Council are able to address.

Question enquired on the complainants employment was asked in relation to whether further priority and entitlement could be awarded, to bid on ‘Community Contribution’ properties set aside for those in some form of employment and/or training.

No

Complaint regarding no working fire alarm system for 2 years with 5 visits from contractors. Also the attitude of council employees and contractors.

Property Services

Not upheld. Building has had full working at all times with full upgrade of system completed some months ago. 2 not 5 visits recently for different purposes.

No

Complainant wanted to know why their bidding on 17 properties had all been unsuccessful.

Requested copies of policies for allocations and complaints.

Housing Options & Homelessness

Not upheld. The complainant had made 17 bids for general needs properties but had no local connection to Wealden so could only bid on retirement living in accordance with Council’s allocations policy.

Yes.  Not upheld.

Complaint about their Housing Officer, and poor staff conduct and unfair treatment. Following the serving of a CPW (Community Protection Warning) for numerous incidents of anti-social behaviour including smoking weed, leaving rubbish outside the property and leaving a sofa outside the door of the building.  Complainant felt bullied.

Housing Management

Not upheld. Communal areas are escape routes in the event of fire in the building and CPW’s are used to ensure compliance.

No

Upgrade to the communal lighting. New lights are bright, flash, and faulty and do not turn off. Not enough effort has been made to fix them. Causing sleep deprivation and impacting the complainant’s mental health and wellbeing.

Property Services

Not upheld. The fault to the system was outside the control of the Council or their contractors and has now been resolved.

Yes.  Not upheld.   

Complaint re lack of 1 bedroom accommodation and no ability to add comments on bids or get feedback. Questions re reasonable adjustments for adverts. Use of food vouchers. Government policy issues also raised.

Housing options & Homelessness

Partially Upheld. The complainants case was found to have been dealt with appropriately, the Council had met its obligations in terms of reasonable adjustments.

–       Complainant’s banding has been fully assessed and the correct banding awarded.

–       The food voucher was issued when applied for in a timely fashion and clear instructions for use online were provided.  .

The council were at fault for failing to advise the complainant of the change in their housing banding within its usual timescales.  .

Yes.  Not upheld.

Unhappy with the questions asked about their homelessness application. Wished to withdraw homelessness application and requested data held on them be erased. 

Housing Options & Homelessness

Not Upheld. In view of the statutory necessity for officers to satisfy themselves that an applicant qualifies for homelessness assistance enquiries need to be made.

No

Unhappy with treatment following sectioning of garden for private use following permission from the council. This lead to ASB with neighbour. Advised to move as a result. Property bid on was unsuccessful and went as a direct let but is still empty.

 

Partially upheld. While well intentioned, granting permission for the complainant to section off part of the garden it should not have been granted and does seem to have led to a worsening of relations for a short period.

The Council were unable to disclose the full reason why the property that the complainant had bid on, was offered by way of Direct Let, due to a potential breach of confidentiality to whom it was offered. This part of the complaint was not upheld.

Yes.  Not upheld.

Council has failed in its duties by not issuing a Compulsory Purchase Order. The council also has powers under the: Housing Act 1985; Housing Act 2004; and the Buildings Act 1984 that would enable us to take appropriate action and would like to know why we have not done so. 

As a result own property has been devalued.

Property Services

Not upheld. Property in question was in probate. There had been delays but solicitors were resolving these and a buyer had been found.

No

Complainant was refused accommodation and believed that the council wrongly assumed they would not be willing to take emergency temporary accommodation.  Officers had failed to take into account the complainants health information and mental health issues which has resulted in them being admitted to hospital.

Put in touch with a Home Works worker who was the mother of the officer the complainant had been dealing with. They believed this was inappropriate as the mother was very dismissive of their concerns and about the way they had been treated.

Housing Options & Homelessness

Not upheld. Complainant had been provided with temporary accommodation and still had a live homelessness case.

As Home Works is not a service provided by Wealden advised to contact Home Works regarding this particular matter.

No

Cost of gas service which is not being received.

Property Services

Not upheld.  Leaseholders have the option to opt in and pay for gas servicing but the complainant had not opted in to this service and therefore not being charged. 

No

Grounds maintenance – charged for works to remove a tree that had not carried out.

Housing Management

Not upheld. Works had been carried out and the Council had responded to the questions raised.

No

Toilet keeps blocking and leaking. This had not been not resolved.

Property service

Not upheld. The toilet had only blocked once in the span of 5 years since its installation and at no time had any leak been attributed or witnessed to the waste outlet pipe.

Yes. Partially upheld.

The stage one complaint relating to toilet blockages and associated leaks was not upheld.

In relation to the new matters raised the reviewing officer found that the language and tone of the stage one response was not of the standard expected. Therefore it was partially upheld.

Requested assistance regarding the sale of the complainant’s mother’s property and had experienced delays that means they have not been able to dispose of the property.

Housing Management

Upheld.  Valuation has been requested, however, the Council were unable to progress the sale until the valuation had been received. Nonetheless, the complainant should have been advised of the process in full and should have been updated as requested. 

No

What has happened/changed as a result of the complaints that we received?

One housing options case was allocated to a different officer.

We have amended the wording of the leaseholder gas service letter as it was misleading.

Complaints taken to the Housing Ombudsman

The Housing Ombudsman received 10 cases from Wealden’s housing residents, from 3 different residents. Of these, 2 had not completed the Council’s Corporate Complaint’s Policy and so the Housing Ombudsman would not investigate as the complainant is expected to contact us in the first instance to resolve the complainant through our complaints procedure. Another 1 was sent to them by mistake and should have been sent to the Information Commissioners Office as it related to a Freedom of Information request. Of the 7 cases investigated, 4 are still under investigation. Of these 4, 3 concern the tenant and leasehold service charges and the final one concerns the Council’s response to a request for a fence.

Of the 3 completed investigations:

1 centred on our response to the resident’s reports of differences in the level of service charges between tenants and leaseholders. The Ombudsman determined that the complaint was not within the jurisdiction to consider.

A further investigation concerned our response to the resident’s reports of financial errors in its service charge calculations in the period 2017-2020, the resident’s reports of inadequate works by the grounds maintenance contractor in 2020-2021 and therefore that the costs of those services should be limited accordingly, the resident’s request for inspection of invoices pursuant to Section 22 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the resident’s request to participate in a consultation on a draft service charge policy the resident’s report of the landlord’s inaccurate report to the local authority cabinet, and our complaint handling. In this instance the Ombudsman found no fault with the way the Council had responded to any of the concerns noted above.

The last investigation concerned the resident’s request about gutter cleaning and how the complaint had been handled. The Ombudsman found fault with the Council here, and awarded £100 compensation to the resident.the