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Housing Secretary shames three more failing social landlords

Three more social housing landlords have been named and shamed by Housing Secretary Michael Gove today (28 December) for failing residents, as he urged lawyers to direct tenants to the Housing Ombudsman to save them time and money.

Michael Gove has demanded answers and action from Orbit Housing, Lambeth Council and Birmingham City Council after the Ombudsman found severe maladministration in their handling of complaints.

It brings the total number of landlords that have been publicly criticised by the Housing Secretary this year for poor performance to 14 and the total amount of compensation that sub-standard landlords have been ordered to pay to social housing tenants by the Ombudsman, in 2022-23 to date, to over £574,000.

In a letter to the Law Society, Citizens Advice, and Housing Law Practitioners Association today, Michael Gove has urged solicitors to tell social housing tenants that the Ombudsman should be the first route for reporting complaints with their landlord – and that it is unacceptable for landlords to let legal proceedings get in the way of repairs.

While lawyers will always have a crucial role representing tenants in legal proceedings, the Ombudsman services are free to use and residents are now able to bring complaints directly themselves, potentially avoiding lengthy and costly legal proceedings.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove said:

Each of these landlords have failed their tenants, letting people suffer in disgraceful conditions while refusing to listen to complaints or treat them with respect.

Housing providers will have nowhere to hide once our Social Housing Bill becomes law early next year. A beefed-up Regulator will have the power to enter properties with only 48 hours’ notice and make emergency repairs with landlords footing the bill.

I’m urging everyone offering advice, from solicitors to voluntary organisations, to always direct social housing tenants with complaints to the Housing Ombudsman. Every tenant deserves a decent home, and landlords must not use legal cases as an excuse to delay making repairs or act on complaints.

Orbit Housing was ordered to pay a resident £5,000 after damp and mould issues went untreated, while Birmingham City Council (second letter this year) failed to respond to resident’s complaints of boiler faults and rotten floorboards in the living room.

In Lambeth, the Council did not repair damaged windows in a fifth-floor flat that fell out of their frames onto the ground below, leaving a resident with boarded up windows during winter, causing mould which damaged their possessions.

They follow 11 other providers to have faced severe maladministration findings from the Ombudsman. Including Clarion (four this year) who did not repair a tenant’s leaking room with rainwater leaking down walls and cracks in every room, Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing who failed to resolve an infestation of silverfish and Johnnie Johnson Housing who had to pay £1,800 compensation after a resident suffered verbal abuse, threats and intimidation at the hands of his neighbours.

London Borough of Hackney, Housing Plus Group (was Stafford Rural homes), Habinteg Housing, Shepherd’s Bush Housing, Southern Housing, Onward Homes, Catalyst, PA Housing, are the others to have been criticised.

Ten per cent of homes in the social rented sector failed to meet the Decent Homes Standard in 2021-22, with 177,000 social homes affected by damp, according to statistics from the English Housing Survey published earlier this month.

The disgraceful conditions social housing tenants are living in was brought into sharp focus this year, when a coroner ruled Awaab Ishak’s death was caused by the damp and mould in his home. The Housing Secretary announced last month that he will block government funding to any housing provider that breaches the Regulator of Social Housing’s consumer standards until they can prove they are a responsible landlord, with Rochdale Boroughwide Housing the first provider to be sanctioned.

The Social Housing (Regulation) Bill will drive up standards in social housing – tackling damp, cold, unsafe homes, making sure landlords don’t ignore tenants and bolstering the Regulator’s power to act.

The government is also launching a £1 million public information campaign early next year to make sure tenants know their rights, including about the work of the Ombudsman, and can hold housing providers to account.

Source: GOV.UK