A London-based housing association has been sanctioned for severe maladministration by the Housing Ombudsman after it failed to provide fire-safe doors in a property more than 18 months after the resident moved in.
Wandle, a 7,000-home landlord, was sanctioned by the ombudsman for what it described as “cumulative failures in addressing fire safety issues in a resident’s flat”.
In a release today, the ombudsman found that the landlord was unable, despite a number of visits, to provide assurances that the doors in the resident’s flat were f ire-rated and whether that meant they needed replacing.
The resident also raised concerns about the general condition of some of the doors, which were not dealt with promptly.
Wande told Inside Housing that it has now “apologised unreservedly to the tenant”.
The resident f irst requested confirmation that all the doors were fire doors upon moving in, following a mutual exchange.
However, after four visits over a nine-month period, the landlord still had not clarified the fire rating of the doors.
Feeling this was a fire safety issue, the resident also voiced concerns about the front door missing a fire strip and not fitting the frame.
The resident, who has recorded vulnerabilities including autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, subsequently raised a stage-one complaint.
In response, the landlord said it would assess the doors but these visits still did not establish whether the doors in the property were fire doors.
The resident also wanted to know whether the landlord had responsibility for f ixing the other faulty doors she had previously raised concerns about.
The landlord escalated the complaint to stage two, and arranged for a survey which found that the front door required a new fire door, that a new fire door was needed for the lounge and that other door defects needed repairing.
At the end of this process, 18 months after the resident had first moved in, the landlord had still not replaced the front door.
The ombudsman found that while the landlord rectified the matter by arranging a door survey, there was a delay in addressing the fire safety issue raised by the resident.
In addition, the landlord initially treated the issue as a responsive repair, rather than a fire safety issue, and the ombudsman described the inspection at mutual exchange “unsatisfactory as the missing kitchen door should have been picked up”.
It was these cumulative failures that meant fire safety issues in the resident’s home went unaddressed for a significant period and caused her worry and frustration.
Following the investigation, the landlord has agreed to review both its mutual exchange policy and its complaint-handling process, as well as making it easier for staff to identify when a resident has a vulnerability.
Tracey Lees, chief executive at Wandle, said: “We respect the ombudsman’s f indings, which are published in today’s report. We have apologised unreservedly to the tenant affected by this case, and are fully complying with our obligations in line with the determination and recommendation.
“Extra measures and procedures have been amended to ensure that this does not happen again, and we are committed to learning from feedback to continually improve our services for residents.”