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.

Complaints Handling Code Self-Assessment – Completed 2023

Details of Housing Complaints

Below are the details of all the complaints made against the whole Housing Service during 2022-23 (1 April 2022 until 31 March 2023).

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Withdrawn – complainant withdraws their complaint.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.

The table below shows that there 46 stage 1 complaints in 2022-23 and 12 stage 2 complaints.

Summary of the Complaint

Service

Outcome and how the complainant was resolved (if applicable)

Did the complaint escalate to Stage 2? and the outcome

Stage 1

 

Complaint about Homemove website, lack od disability housing and food vouchers.

Housing Options

Not upheld as the concerns had been addressed fully in previous communications

No

Complaint regarding incorrect apportioning of service charges.

Housing Services

Not upheld – calculations were correct.

No

Complaint re sharing of contact details.

Housing Services

Not upheld

No

Complaint regarding grass cutting and damages to goods.

Housing Services

Not upheld

No

Complaint was received from the Housing Ombudsman on behalf of the customer.

Concerned suitability of accommodation, request to transfer, restrictions on his contact with officers and request for a dedicated point of contact.

Housing Options

Not upheld – but a single point of contact has been established.

No

Complaint about the minutes of a Resident Group Meeting.

Housing Policy, Involvement & Standards

Not upheld – our e complaints policy does not cover the words or actions of residents for whom the Council have no control over.

Yes, but not escalated as complaint was fully responded to at Stage 1.

Complaint re bathroom flood and discriminatory treatment.

Housing Services & Property Services

Partially upheld – on investigation it was found that work to the bathroom had been undertaken in 2018, arranged by the Disabled Adaptations Team.

No

Complaint about the ability to access the Housing Register.

Housing Options

Upheld – as mistakes were made by a former officer.  

No

Complaint regarding a council officers’ behaviour.

Housing Services

Not upheld – as the advice provided by the officer has been sensible and in line with Council expectations.

No

Complaint regarding resolution of anti-social behaviour and tone of officer dealing with it.

Housing Services

Not upheld. mediation offered to the complainant and her neighbours.

No

Complaint regarding a Disabled Facilities Grant and delays to works.

Property Services

Upheld – revised recommendations had not been picked up.

Yes, but not escalated as complaint was fully responded to at Stage 1.

Complaint regarding the dealings of a deceased leaseholder’s property.

Housing Services

Partially upheld – there were delays within the process and administration. £100 compensation made in recognition.

Yes – Offer of £100 compensation unacceptable and contested some of the statements made in the Stage 1 response.

Not escalated as complaint was fully responded to at Stage 1. However, a greater explanation was provided to the points raised.

Complaint regarding condition of the property and noise of the boiler.

.

Property Services

Not upheld

No

Complaint about lack of support provided.

Housing Services

Not upheld- Help and advice provided within the response with regards to the specific issues raised.  

No

Complaint about lack of communication around repair works.

Property Services

Upheld – due to the level of communication falling short of expectations.

No

Complaint regarding delays to repair works.

laminate flooring.

Property Services

Partially upheld – due to delays and miscommunication.

Yes, not escalated as complaint was fully responded to at Stage 1.

Complaint regarding information provided.

Housing Options

Not upheld – the process regarding joining the Housing Register had been followed in line with the Allocations Policy.

Yes, not escalated as no new evidence was provided to justify Stage 2.

Complaint around the suitability of accommodation.

Housing Options

Not upheld. At the time of allocation there was opportunity to dispute the offer, but this was not pursued.

No

Complaint about the damage caused by overgrown trees and debris.

Property Services

Not upheld – trees have been inspected and found to be healthy so are part of non-urgent work to be completed in early 2023.

No

Complaint about the condition of the property moved into via a mutual exchange.

Housing Services/ Property Services

Not upheld – part of mutual exchange and therefore did not go through a void process.

No

Complaint about lack of support and conflicting information.

Housing Options

Not upheld – as the advice given has been correct.

No

Complaint about various aspects of their housing situation.

Housing Options

Not Upheld – all points raised were responded to.

Yes, not escalated as no new evidence was supplied and the original response was correct. However, further information regarding the allocations policy has been provided.

Complaint about lack of repairs.

Property Services

Upheld – footpath repairs needed for health and safety reasons.

Yes, not escalated as no new information provided and no fault was found with the original investigation. Offered further explanation.

Complaint about the running of a Resident Association.

Housing Policy, Involvement & Standards

Upheld – due to inconsistency in the publication of agendas, minutes and future dates of meetings.

No

Complaint regarding roof repairs and timing of these over the Christmas period.

.

Property Services

Complaint placed on hold at the request of the complainant and not reinstated.

No

Complaint regarding condition of neighbour’s garden.  

Housing Management

Upheld – due to the length of time taken to rectify the situation.

No

Complaint over delays to repair boiler.

Property Services

Upheld – there had been difficulty on obtaining parts and as a result works had been delayed.

No

Complaint relating to banding decision and level of customer service.

Housing Options

Not upheld – there were emails to the contrary.

Yes, partially Justified due to fault in some aspects of the review handling.

.

Complaint relating to standard of repairs to a tenant’s home and impact on the household.

Property Services

Upheld – £500 compensation offered due to significant delays.

Yes, not upheld – however a more detailed explanation was given.

Complaint relating to charging of utilities.

Housing Services

Not upheld – Although the standing charge is higher than last year the charge is significantly lower than the Energy Price Cap.

Yes, not upheld – fully responded at stage 1.

Complaint relating to lack of response to previous letter.

Housing Services

Not upheld – letter had not been received.

No

Complaint relating to rent deposit scheme.

Housing Options

Upheld – Although it was not the intention to act as guarantors the guarantor box had been ticked and so it was agreed to pay the £600 guarantor sum.

 No

Complaint relating to rent payment overcharge.

Housing Services

Not upheld – Benefits had been covering the rent in full.

Yes, not upheld – fully responded at stage 1.

Complaints with handling of anti-social behaviour and the policy not being complied with.

Housing Services

Not Upheld – due to evidence to the contrary.

No

Complaint regarding negligence and unsatisfied temporary accommodation.

Housing Options

Not upheld – evidence to the contrary – all policies and procedures had been followed.

No

Complaint about property faults including damp, mould, dripping guttering and inadequate heating.

Property Services

Upheld – due to a lack of insulation and £500 offered to cover heating costs.

Yes, not upheld. However, a more detailed explanation and named officer provided for further contact.

Complaint regarding the lack of information of the time scales required to ask for a valuation of his property to be reconsidered as part of the Right to Buy Process.

Housing Services

Upheld

No

Complaint regarding the contents of a letter from the council with regards to the condition of the property.

Property Services

Upheld – works had been delayed.

No

Complaint regarding damp and mould issues within the property.

Property Services

Partially upheld – one email was not responded to.

No

Complaint regarding level of management at a retirement living court. 

Housing Services

Not upheld – no changes to the level of service.

No

Complaint about tree management.

Housing Services

Partially Upheld – due to a lack of communication.

No

Complaint regarding ongoing damp and mould.

Property Services

Not Upheld – work had been done and solutions offered.

Yes, Stage 2 complaint withdrawn by the customer.

 Complaint received from the Local Government Ombudsman on behalf of the customer. regarding the lack of available garages.

Housing Services

Not Upheld – the information provided was correct and is based on demand and supply.

No

Complaint regarding leaks at the property.

Property Services

Upheld –our communication had not been acceptable.

No

Complaint was about the language used and unhelpfulness of officers.

Property Services

Upheld – poor advice and information had been provided.

No

Complaint regarding soffits cleaning.

Housing Services

Not Upheld – The customer was correctly advised.

No

  • Contact the resident to gain details of the costs incurred and reimburse any reasonable costs incurred as a result of the information he had been incorrectly provided. This was to be paid in addition to the £50 voucher already provided.
  • pay the resident a further £100 compensation. 
  • contact the resident to agree a plan for addressing the reported ongoing ASB.
  • Review staff training to identify how it can prevent incorrect information being provided to residents about proposed alterations in future and confirm to the Housing Ombudsman what steps we will take to achieve this.
  • Improvements to our procedures to ensure that we have routine and regular contact with households facing homelessness. As well as ensuring that these contacts are documented. Furthermore, maintaining more frequent contact with those that are more vulnerable such as those with mental health issues.
  • Arranging training for staff so that they are able to manage difficult conversations in a supportive way.
  • Reviewed how we can speed up the process of terminating a lease in retirement living, what information we provide to those terminating a lease and training for staff covering colleagues who are absent.
  • Improvements to the communications between Private Housing Officers and Occupational Therapist, with communication now done via email.
  • As a result of one complaint about communication with a leaseholder regarding outstanding works changes have been made which include email acknowledgments and correspondence even when there is no further update so that the customer knows what is happening.
  • When a repair is requested, we now pass over all the forms of contacting the tenant to try and improve delays as a result of the contractor not being able to get hold of the tenant. This includes all phone numbers and email addresses held.
  • As part of personalised housing plans for households who are or are at risk of homelessness information on the frequency of contact is now added.
  • Identified additional training for some staff. Including around what works can be done under a disabled adaptation but is outside the scope of a repair.
  • We are reviewing our website content and information presented to customers including looking at the use of videos.
  • Reviewed the Housing Allocations section of the website due to customers feedback which has shown that some customers don’t understand the process. Additionally, the Allocations Policy is lengthy, and some customers don’t understand it, so we have produced a Key Facts for the policy. We are also looking at producing a video on How to apply for social housing and the process.
  • When programming works in the future consideration will be had to timing e.g., not taking a cavity wall down in winter.
  • With regards to repair works and ensuring tenants are kept informed and updated.
  • Staff training to ensure all the team including newer members know how to complete the paperwork correctly for accessing accommodation in the private rented sector (Letsure).
  • Give new Resident Associations additional support to ensure they fulfil their obligations as set out in their constitution.
  • We have amended our standard letter templates for Right to Buy applications to ensure information regarding appeals on valuations is now included.
  • Setting up a process to ensure customers are responded to – We are currently buying a new IT system. Once this is in place, we will be able to record customer interactions. The system will also remind us of outstanding actions. This will ensure we can deliver the best possible service.
  • The complaint highlighted that the administration of garage letting has been a much lower priority during a prolonged period of staff shortages, and measures are being implemented to address this.
  • We need to improve communication – avoiding unnecessary emails.

The Housing Ombudsman reviewed 5 cases referred to them by Wealden Residents between 1st April 2022 and 31st March 2023 of which:

In one case no maladministration was found but a service failure was found. The Housing Ombudsman made 3 orders and 4 recommendations.

In the other 4 cases referred by one resident 10 issues were raised. In 9 no maladministration found but in 1 maladministration was found.  6 recommendations were made in light of the issues raised.

A total of £449 in compensation was awarded.

 

Key:

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

Orders is where the Ombudsman orders a landlord to implement the remedies that they have identified for that case and includes paying compensation, making changes/reviewing polices/procedures or introducing new policies/procedures.

Recommendations is where the Ombudsman advises the landlord to do something for example apologising to the complainant, paying compensation, carrying out certain works or undertaking other forms of readdress.

How do Wealden compare as a landlord in terms of complaints  

The Housing Ombudsman produces an annual report for any housing provider who has 5 or more cases referred to them. Landlord-Report-Wealden-District-Council.pdf (housing-ombudsman.org.uk) here you can find out how Wealden performed in 2022-23.

Summary of the Complaint

Service

Outcome and how the complainant was resolved (if applicable)

 

Quarter 1 – 1st April to 30 April 2023

 

Stage 1

 

Detail

Team within Housing

Outcome

 

Leaseholder complaint about differing cost for cleaning services and why we had consulted

Housing Management

Not upheld

Differing costs were due to the fact that one was estimated and the other the final cost.

A section 20 consultation was required because if the agreement is for more than 12 months and at least one leaseholder will pay more than £100 in any one year, there is a legal requirement to consult.

 

Complaint regarding the lack of response to enquiries regarding some of the leaseholder service charge payments for 2021-022

Housing Management

Not upheld

Complainant is subject to vexatious status and as such has been advised on the restriction on responses.

 

Complainant disagreed with the Council’s response regarding anti-social behaviour

Housing Management

Not upheld

Concern raised had been investigated but there was no evidence to support the allegations made. The complainant was not willing to explore mediation.

 

Complaint about a Residents Association meeting which was considered to have been non quorate and in breach of the constitution

Housing Policy & Partnerships

The matter fell outside the scope of our Corporate Complaints Procedure since Wealden District Council is not responsible for Resident Associations who are independent bodies.

 

Complaint about damp and mould and lack of action

Property Services

Partially justified due to delays following the departure of an Officer and because communication should have been better.

 

Complaint about delays to a mutual exchange resulting from a mistake when transferring the property from a joint to sole tenancy many years earlier

Housing Management

Upheld. The Officer who had made the transfer of tenancy had wrongly interpreted the court order at the time. This was identified during the mutual exchange leading to delays.

£50 compensation was awarded.

 

Complaint about a private rented tenant who had secured the property through Letsure (financial assistance from the Council)

Housing Options & Homelessness

No upheld. The tenant was a private tenant who had secured the property directly from the landlord

 

Complaint regarding a water leak, damp and mould and lack of action

Property Services

Not upheld. All works had been completed at the property. There was no damp or mould present.

 

Complaint regarding broken heating system over winter, damp and mould and delays replacing the cavity wall insulation 

Property Services

Justified as the repair had taken longer than we would normally expect.

 

Complaint regarding an outstanding water leak and missed appointment

Property Services

Justified as the repair initially had failed to be logged.

 

Complaint regarding a change of banding because of refusing a property.

Housing Options & Homelessness

Not upheld as the decision had been based on information provided at the time. However, based upon the new evidence this decision will be reviewed.

 

Complaint regarding the lack of response to Section 21 consultation about lift servicing and refurbishment

Housing Management

Not upheld since Stage 1 of the consultation for section 21 notices does not require us to respond to any observations within 21 days.

 

Complaint about the lack of support from an Officer.

Housing Policy & Partnerships

Not upheld. Evidence highlighted the extent of the support provided; the allegations made against the officer were not supported by a third party also present. 

 

Summary of the Complaint

Service

Outcome and how the complainant was resolved (if applicable)

Quarter 2 2023-2024: July, August and September 2023

Team within Housing

Outcome

 

Stage 1

Property Services

Not escalated as no relevant new information had been provided and the Stage 1 had been fully and appropriately responded to.

 

Detail

Team within Housing

Outcome

 

 

 

 

 

Complaint with the service received by a contractor – repairs not being carried out.

Property Services

Not upheld.

Concerns about guttering and downpipe had been investigated and responded to. An agreement was made for the cleaning of green algae growth on wall surrounding downpipe. 

 

Complaint about unsuccessful bids on properties, loss of medical notes on council files, and bids showing as ‘rejected’ despite not being offered properties.

Housing Options

Partially upheld.

All medical notes had been received and supporting evidence reviewed.

Records showed that a property offered had been refused and unsuccessful bids were in line with the Housing Allocations Policy, but with one administrative error which we cannot now reverse as the property had been let.

 

Complaint about council’s decision on disqualification to join the housing register and wrongful allocation of a property to another individual.

Housing Options

Not upheld.

After the council had notified the complainant that they did not qualify to join the register. They asked for a review, which was carried out, but they were found not to meet the eligibility criteria. There is no further right to a review/appeal.  

The complaint falls outside of the scope of the Corporate Complaints Procedure.

 

Complaint follows previous recorded complaint.  That the council’s reviewer made wrongful interpretations and judgement, affecting the handling of case.

Housing Options

Not upheld.

Concurred with the council’s original findings and decision.  Reiterated that the complaint falls outside of the scope of the Corporate Complaints Procedure.

 

Complaint about service provided as part of the Warm Home Check Scheme, and not being informed by the council that they were no longer on the list to receive funding for insulation.

Property Services

Not upheld

A referral form was completed and signposted by a member of council staff using The Winter Home Check Service website, which is managed by Hastings Borough Council and a service provided by East Sussex County Council. 

Advice given to raise a complaint with Hastings Borough Council regarding no longer being on the list. 

 

Complaint on the council’s refusal to further explain a letter regarding the Disabled Facility Grants despite being advised about autism and requiring assistance.

Property Services

Not upheld.

Multiple efforts had been made verbally, in person, over the phone, in writing and by email, to explain the DFG process and reasoning for grant not being feasible.  

 

Complaint from owner occupier about the council’s failure to maintain a property that had resulted in a pest infestation.

Property Services

Not upheld.

All identified work following an earlier survey inspection of the property had been completed, including pest treatment.

 

Complaint about the council’s handling of an application for housing.

Housing Options

Not upheld.

Applicant was not eligible for homelessness assistance but would be in another Local Authority where they had a local connection so referred to them. This assessment was correct. Any request for a review falls outside the scope of the Corporate Complaints Procedure.

 

Complaint about the lack of communication from the council, on reported damp and mould.

Property Services

Upheld.

Failure of communication on updates identified.  This was partly due to a period of staff shortages during a very busy period.

As a result of the complaint a senior surveyor was allocated to the case, an inspection was made, and remedial actions placed.

 

Complaint on outstanding items on a fire risk assessment.

Property Services

Not upheld.

Complaint identified and considered as a request for a service.  As a result, the required work was passed on for actioning.  

 

Complaint about the council asking unreasonable number of questions and time taken to consider and refuse a homelessness application. 

Housing Options

Not upheld.

Applicant’s circumstances changed throughout the process, and it had been difficult to get the evidence needed, contributing to delay in the council’s decision. 

Complaint with decision made on not qualifying to join the register falls outside of Corporate Complaints Procedure.

 

Complaint about unreasonable time taken to fix communal lights.

Property Services

Upheld.

Repairs to lights were not straight forward however, the repairs did take longer than the council would consider acceptable.

 

Complaint about council not sticking to original agreement that increase in banding to happen after 1 year of living in accepted accommodation.

Housing Options

Upheld.

Increase in banding was meant to have been offered. This incentive was part of a Local Letting Plan that had came to an end before the 1 year came to completion.  The agreement should have been kept to as a legacy to the original arrangement.  Subsequently, increase in banding has been arranged.

 

Complaint about brick shed remaining damp despite a report and repairs recommendations. Also, noise from water tanks despite numerous repair attempts.

Property Services

Not upheld.

Works undertaken to make the shed as watertight as possible within restrictions of its construction – the shed is not designed to be watertight without extensive improvement works to the wall structure.  Shed is not a habitable space of the dwelling, therefore level of expenditure to achieve this is not achievable or practical. 

Works to water tank had been completed.  No further reports received since works were completed. A service request raised for further investigation. 

 

 

Summary of the Complaint

Service

Outcome and how the complainant was resolved (if applicable)

Quarter 3

Stage 1

Complaint overview

Team within Housing

Outcome

Timescale undertaken to alleviate condensation and mould. Offence caused by comments made by staff in emails. Councils’ decision on banding.

Property Services

Upheld

Due to various factors the timescale for works took longer than the council had hoped to reach a satisfactory resolution.  Comments/remarks made in information released has resulted in customer service training and the matter being brought to the attention of the council’s contractors. 

Banding review evidence had now been undertaken and has resulted in an increase of banding.

Electricity to communal arial connected to complainant’s electricity supply and had been done so without consent or knowledge. 

Housing Services

Upheld

The connection happened back in 2013 following agreement with the previous tenant.

An initial reimbursement was provided for having connection to the complainants supply however, this did not happen in subsequent years as a matter of course, and requests had to be made.

This has been identified as a service failure and a payment of £50 has been offered to the complainant.

Inadequate Annual Budgeting for Repairs and Maintenance for leaseholders since 2016-17.

Housing Services

Not upheld

Complainant made a number of observations on the differences between estimated and actual costs.   

Housing Repairs and Damp issues

Property Services

Upheld

External repairs were passed over to the council’s contractor.  The contractor had decided to hold off carrying out works to encompass them as part of planned works in the Energy Efficiency workstream.  This should not have been the case.  Arrangements were made to have the work undertaken as soon as possible.

Officer Behaviour

Housing Options

Partially Upheld

Much of the dissatisfaction with the service received fell outside the scope of the Corporate Complaints as there is a separate legal appeal process.

No evidence that the officer did anything other than try to establish the facts of the case. 

So that an outcome can be reached, another female Housing Options Officer was been reallocated the case.

The Council were at fault with initial processing of case; which should have been dealt with as a Homelessness Application.

Council’s failure to respond to Observations on Major Works

Housing Services /Property Services

Not upheld

The specific letter from complainant was examined again and they were asking for further information on payment options, which had been provided.  

Condition of Property and Complaint Handling

Property Services

Partially Upheld

A full inspection on the complainant’s property was carried out, followed by a letter advising of the repairs that were required and that works would be carried out within 28days of them being raised with the council’s contractor.

The contractors were unable to carry out repair works due to the complainant exhibiting abusive behaviour and the refusal to allow access to their property when they turned up.

However, there was a failure to follow up after first attempt to make repairs.

Council’s failure to respond to observations provided on a Green Energy Consultation

Housing Services

Not Upheld

There was no undertaking when seeking residents views that a response would be provided by a specific date.  Complainant was advised that a response to all residents would be provided in the next newsletter and Spring edition of Threshold.

Council’s failure to respond to request on Window Replacement – Loans and Payment Methods

Housing Services /Property Services

Not Upheld

Complainant submitted complaint prior to them and other leaseholders receiving a letter from the council, advising that once information is available, individual calculations will be provided.

Impact on recovery of previous service charge years underpayments

Housing Services

Not Upheld

Observations made by complainant that in five out of seven years, the service charge has been insufficient to recover the cost resulting in underpayment.   

These observations were not dealt with by way of a complaint. [1]

Overcharging of Service Charges due to the Council’s incorrect financial calculations

Housing Services

Not Upheld

Complainant implied that the council’s method in calculating the recovery of service charges may not be legal.  This appeared to be an observation and not a complaint. The questioning of the legality in the calculation asserted was not accepted.

These observations were not dealt with by way of a complaint.   

Underpayment of Service Charges brought forward from 2021-22

Housing Services

Not Upheld

Complainant considered an underpayment to be incorrect and did not understand why there was a large underpayment for leaseholders compared to tenants.

These observations were not dealt with by way of a complaint.

Timeframe for Repairs

Property Services

Not Upheld

Complaint that the council should prioritise tenants with families and who are vulnerable when it involves heating and water.  Additionally, the emergency line was not working over a weekend when there is no other way to report an issue.

Telephone system identified that the complainants initial call was abandoned by the complainant and no message left requesting call back.  The complainant then called back 2 days later and was offered an appointment within 48 hours – which although was outside the council’s target of 24 hours, was due to high demand and high number of calls over a weekend.

Closure of Residents Car Park

Property Services

Partially Upheld

Residents were not advised of the closure of the car park.  Complainant requires a parking space close to their property due to disabilities however, spaces unavailable by the time they arrive home after work. 

Although works and their impact were discussed in detail with residents, they were not discussed with the wider community – which includes the complainant.  An assumption was made that there would be a minimal impact to neighbouring residents, which has been identified as incorrect.

Complaint about an  Officer in Housing

Housing Services

Not Upheld

Complaint about lack of wellbeing checks, concerns not being followed up, Housing Officer behaviour due to complainant’s ethnicity and the Council failing its duty of care.

Welfare visits had been identified as being undertaken. Letters to complainant showed that the Housing Officer had tried to respond to the complainant’s concerns. 

Complainant’s daughter has been charged with assault and awaiting trial.  As the complainant is responsible for the behaviour of visitors and guest to her property, a notice had been served on the complainant for the breach of tenancy conditions.  This is not discriminatory behaviour.

Complainant advised that can approach the Housing Servies Team Leader if they feel that they are not being supported by their Housing Officer.

 

Summary of the Complaint

Service

Outcome and how the complainant was resolved (if applicable)

Quarter 4

 

Stage 1

Complaint overview

Team within Housing

Outcome

Housing Officer failed to address issues raised on anti-social behaviour complaints made about two neighbours.

Housing Services

Not Upheld

ASB Officer had visited the address on several occasions to ascertain evidence of cannabis smell and use – of which no evidence was found. The Officer also tried to make arrangements to visit the complainant, however, this was unsuccessful.  Complainant was strongly advised to make contact with Officer.

Housing Officer failed to advise that a witness would be required for the signing of a mutual exchange deed of assignment.

Housing Services

Upheld

Complainant alleged that they had not been advised that a separate person was needed to witness their signature on the deed. This resulted in the complainant having to arrange for a solicitor to provide this service.

There was insufficient evidence to demonstrate whether the information had been provided. £50 was awarded in recognition of the service failure.

Housing Officer failed to start a mediation process with the complainant’s neighbour regarding noise.  

Housing Services

Not upheld

Exhibits of noise diaries from the complainant was noted to have referred to the time that the ASB Officer intervened. Records showed that the ASB Officer met with the complainant and followed up; complainant advised that the noise had subsided and did not return a message left later by the ASB Officer.

ASB Officer to contact both complainant and neighbour to make a referral to the mediation service, if agreed by both parties.

 

 

Inadequate support and assistance from officers – impacting mental health, when handling the complainants Homelessness Application.

 

 

Housing Options

Not Upheld

Officers who had investigated complainants’ application had gone through a vigorous test involving statutory criteria and guidance, but the applicant did not meet the homelessness test.

The complainant also did not consider it acceptable having to deal with a male officer – due to them being a victim of domestic violence. The complainant did not make this request, and only mentioned wanting to change officers much later in the application. The Council has now allocated a female officer to the case.

Dissatisfied with allocated banding from Housing Application; Concerns over moving back into an underpinned property (requiring repairs) and other poor living conditions.

Housing Services and Property Services

Not Upheld

The part of the complaint on banding application unable to be treated as a complaint under the Council’s complaints procedure instead a request for review of banding has been made.

The property that had been decanted from has been twice underpinned and the complainant does not wish to move back as they feel there will be problems in the future.  First underpinning was 25 years ago, and it is not possible to predict ground conditions over this period.  Regular stock condition surveys are undertaken; there is no reason to assume that there will be any concerns following completion of this current work. Additionally, the complainant is entitled to make a request for a transfer or carry out a mutual exchange. Advice has been provided on what is needed to secure a permanent move.  

 

A lack of communication and conflicting messages and remedies proposed to rectify dampness in property.

 

 

Property Services

Partially Upheld

Complainant had not allowed work to be undertaken when contractors attended as they alleged that they had been advised that this would not resolve the problem.

A separate issue of damp in the property had been noticed and likely the caused by a leak from the flat above, however, access to this flat had been difficult.    

An investigation into the potential leak from above flat has been made; Further investigation due to alleged new damp presentation to be carried out to find out whether further extensive works are required.

 

Acceptance that communications could have been better in this case.

Accommodation not being offered by the Council despite being street homeless for some time.

Housing Options

Not Upheld

Complainant assessed as ‘not priority need’ inline with criteria set out within the homelessness assessment determined by the Homelessness Act 2017.

Complainant did not receive money to travel to different areas to look for work, as the Council does not provide this assistance.

Allegation that Council staff had been rude and unhelpful.  Complainant had made repeated enquiries however, had refused to accept what was being advised – resulting in staff needing to assertively explain that there was little else that the Council could do.

Request for complaint to be escalated to Stage 2, however registered as a stage 1 due to additional matters being brought forward that had not been covered in the previous Stage 1.

Property Services

Partially Upheld

Ongoing works to a block of flats adjacent to property had allegedly caused damage to the complainant’s car. No evidence to show that damage had been made by anyone attending or delivering to the site.

Concerning noise levels from the work causing anxiety and stress.  Every effort has been taken to minimise the noise impact; measuring of peak continuous noise levels within acceptable limits carried out; reduction in time period within the day when the noisiest work is undertaken. Furthermore, deliveries will be scheduled for after 8am and operatives instructed not to leave their vans running when arriving for work waiting to access the site.

Concerning dirt left on carpet due to the type of works being undertaken. As a result, the complainant’s hall carpet will be cleaned once works are completed.

 

No running water, shower or washing facilities for months and the Council failing to carry out repairs.

Property Services

Not Upheld

Initial repair work to a shower drain pump was unable to be tested to check if it was working due to complainant not having electricity credit on the meter to test the pump – delaying initial action. Investigations and attempts to unblock the drain were unsuccessful as the blockage was too far down the line – subsequent parts for the shower were ordered.  Over the following weeks unsuccessful attempts were made to access the property to undertake the repairs to the shower, which delayed the works. During which time, the property had full running water.  The only facility that was unavailable was the shower.

Large increase in service charges – higher that the rate of inflation. The Council had not provided any justification for the level of increase or calculation.  

Housing Services

Not Upheld

Complainant had already identified in the complaint that there was a significant under-recovery from the previous year that is being recovered in the current year, subsequently accounting for the large proportion of service charge.

 

Complaints and requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act had explained how the service charge was calculated.

Managers Comments Regarding Wi-Fi Installation in Retirement Living Court

Housing Policy and Partnership

Not Upheld

Initial consultation with residents exploring the level of interest for Wi-Fi installation, resulted with the majority not wanting this service. The management of the premises made a comment in a newsletter about the potential benefits of Wi-Fi  and that the initial decision made by residents could be overturned should they change their minds.  Complainant felt they should not have canvassed further opinion.  The Council have respected the wishes of the residents in not installing Wi-fi, however officers have a duty to ensure residents are aware of the advantages/disadvantages and options moving forward.

The Council has created disabled parking bays for some tenants but not for the complainant.  The Council has left handrails at a dangerous height.

Property Services

Not Upheld

It has been made clear to residents that there is not allocated parking and that anyone with a disabled badge is entitled to park in the disabled parking bays. 

The Council had completed work to increase the height of handrails. 

Cleaning Service (in communal flat) is below the expected standard.

Housing Services

Not Upheld.

Complainant believed that the cleaners make excessive noise and that the service provided is below standard.

The only time the cleaning was found to be below the required standard is when the cleaners left after the complainant confronted them with unpleasant language and aggressiveness – about the apparent noise they were making when cleaning the railings.  Of which would inevitably create noise but no different to how it had been cleaned before.  The complainant had already accepted that they could have handled the situation better when speaking to the Council’s contract supervisor.

 

Stage 2

Detail

Team within Housing

Outcome

Repairs and clean up works following the repair

Property Services

Not escalated as no relevant new information had been provided and the Stage 1 had been fully and appropriately responded to.

     

 

Stage 2

 

 

Council’s decision on disqualification to join the housing register and wrongful allocation of a property to another individual.

Housing Options

Not upheld.

No new information provided.  Stage 1 complaint fully and appropriately responded to.

About outstanding items on a fire risk assessment, that this should not have been dealt with as a service request, and as such contrary to the council’s complaint procedure.

Property Services

Not upheld.

The council’s complaints procedure allows determination of what can be deemed a service request.  The officers had dealt with all correspondence in the correct manner and satisfied procedures. 

Complaint about unreasonable time taken to fix communal lights, and that the response was factually incorrect.

Property Services

Not upheld.

No new information provided further to complaint at stage 1, complaint found to be fully and appropriately responded to.

 

Stage 2

 

 

Correction to Council’s summary of Stage 1 complaint. 

Head of Housing

Partially Upheld.

The complainant felt discriminated against due to ethnicity, beliefs, and gender as a result the Council had not fulfilled its service standards. 

No evidence of staff failing to treat complainant with respect in their communications with complainant, or that they had lied. 

Staff absences had already been acknowledged creating a gap in the Councils resources and shortcomings in timescales for a response.  A temporary member of staff had been taken on as soon as it was reasonably practical. 

The Council’s original response that an officer had attempted to contact the complainant face to face, was incorrect; they had attempted to contact by telephone – left a voicemail that was unreturned.  The officer followed up with them again, to which the complainant advised that a reported noise problem, had improved.

The Council were unable to response to the complainants concerns in a timely manner due to staff sickness, a goodwill payment of £25 was offered as a result of this. 

 

Dissatisfied with outcome from Stage 1 with Concerns over moving back into an underpinned property (requiring repairs) and other poor living conditions.

Head of Housing

Not Upheld.

No new relevant information provided by complainant.  The complaint in Stage 1 had been fully and appropriately responded to. (see Stage 1 above).

 

 

 

  • Contact the resident to gain details of the costs incurred and reimburse any reasonable costs incurred as a result of the information he had been incorrectly provided. This was to be paid in addition to the £50 voucher already provided.
  • pay the resident a further £100 compensation. 
  • contact the resident to agree a plan for addressing the reported ongoing ASB.
  • Review staff training to identify how it can prevent incorrect information being provided to residents about proposed alterations in future and confirm to the Housing Ombudsman what steps we will take to achieve this.
  • Improvements to our procedures to ensure that we have routine and regular contact with households facing homelessness. As well as ensuring that these contacts are documented. Furthermore, maintaining more frequent contact with those that are more vulnerable such as those with mental health issues.
  • Arranging training for staff so that they are able to manage difficult conversations in a supportive way.
  • Reviewed how we can speed up the process of terminating a lease in retirement living, what information we provide to those terminating a lease and training for staff covering colleagues who are absent.
  • Improvements to the communications between Private Housing Officers and Occupational Therapist, with communication now done via email.
  • As a result of one complaint about communication with a leaseholder regarding outstanding works changes have been made which include email acknowledgments and correspondence even when there is no further update so that the customer knows what is happening.
  • When a repair is requested, we now pass over all the forms of contacting the tenant to try and improve delays as a result of the contractor not being able to get hold of the tenant. This includes all phone numbers and email addresses held.
  • As part of personalised housing plans for households who are or are at risk of homelessness information on the frequency of contact is now added.
  • Identified additional training for some staff. Including around what works can be done under a disabled adaptation but is outside the scope of a repair.
  • We are reviewing our website content and information presented to customers including looking at the use of videos.
  • Reviewed the Housing Allocations section of the website due to customers feedback which has shown that some customers don’t understand the process. Additionally, the Allocations Policy is lengthy, and some customers don’t understand it, so we have produced a Key Facts for the policy. We are also looking at producing a video on How to apply for social housing and the process.
  • When programming works in the future consideration will be had to timing e.g., not taking a cavity wall down in winter.
  • With regards to repair works and ensuring tenants are kept informed and updated.
  • Staff training to ensure all the team including newer members know how to complete the paperwork correctly for accessing accommodation in the private rented sector (Letsure).
  • Give new Resident Associations additional support to ensure they fulfil their obligations as set out in their constitution.
  • We have amended our standard letter templates for Right to Buy applications to ensure information regarding appeals on valuations is now included.
  • Setting up a process to ensure customers are responded to – We are currently buying a new IT system. Once this is in place, we will be able to record customer interactions. The system will also remind us of outstanding actions. This will ensure we can deliver the best possible service.
  • The complaint highlighted that the administration of garage letting has been a much lower priority during a prolonged period of staff shortages, and measures are being implemented to address this.
  • We need to improve communication – avoiding unnecessary emails.
  • Undertaken a review of processes with contractors to ensure urgent works around condensation and mould to properties are dealt with quicker than standard works and reviewed processes to ensure that they are effective.
  • We have reduced reliance on emails with contractors and now ensure all works required to properties are logged on the system to prevent things being missed. In addition, when we do need to email, we ensure that people are not unnecessarily copied in to reduce the number of emails being sent and things being missed as a result. 
  • A new policy on Condensation and Mould is being developed as a result of the higher number of cases than normal this winter. We will then set up a tenant’s group to focus on condensation and mould to help us review letters and information we send out.
  • We now check all court orders in detail to ensure consent and property orders are distinguished when making tenancy changes. 
  • All Housing staff have recently undertaken trauma informed training to ensure we deliver a person-centred approach across all areas of our work.
  • Provided staff training on aids and adaptations so that those responsible for repairs are aware of this route as a possible option for non-repairs works where a household member is experiencing difficulties e.g., accessing their property.
  • Reviewed information provided to new resettled refugee families on arrival to Wealden so it is clear what support families can expect. Resettlement staff have had further training on the different cultures of families that they are supporting.
  • Ensuring when making request for services staff ensure receipts are provided and recorded.
  • Newsletter article to remind tenants of responsibilities regarding pests and pets.
  • Additional staff training for specific officers regarding local lettings plans and eligible on the 2-bedroom flat plan.
    • When decanting residents to enable major works to their current home we need to ensure that they understand the process and what they need to do (transfer or mutual exchange) if they want to move home on a permanent basis.
    • Ensure wider engagement with residents when major works are taking place to a property and not just those in close proximity.

     

    • Communication needs to be improved; this includes letting residents know when there is no update. We will be looking at how to automate this as part of the implementation of our new IT system.