Gove tells largest social housing association of ‘deep disappointment’ at complaints failings

The Housing Secretary has told England’s largest social housing landlord he is “deeply disappointed” after investigations found failings in its handling of complaints over leaks, damp, mould and pest control problems.

Michael Gove (pictured) said Clarion Housing Association should be setting an example but instead had not been able to meet fundamental standards for its tenants.

It follows two recent reports from the Housing Ombudsman which made findings of “severe maladministration” over the housing association’s handling of complaints.

Earlier in May, the ombudsman identified “significant failings” over how it responded to a complaint from a vulnerable tenant who went for months without water and had problems with damp, mould and rodents.

And last month, the ombudsman criticised the group for its “repeated failure” to respond to another resident’s complaints after she reported a leaking roof, damp, mould and cracks to the interior of her property.

Mr Gove said it was “extremely concerning” to see two serious cases in such quick succession.

The latest case involved a female tenant, referred to as Ms K, who experienced delays over 15 months in the landlord dealing with repairs following reports of leaks, damp, mould and a rodent infestation.

The investigation was told she was without hot or cold water for days and months at a time, although it found no evidence she made contemporaneous reports to the landlord about these periods.

In early 2021, she reported that she was sleeping on her sofa due to mice and droppings in almost every room, it said.

The landlord took steps to acknowledge and offer compensation for its failings.

But the ombudsman said there was severe maladministration in the landlord’s complaints handling, communication, and consideration of Ms K’s vulnerabilities.

The ombudsman is carrying out a further investigation as it is dealing with other cases about similar issues “which may be indicative of repeated failure”.

In a letter to the group shared by Mr Gove on Twitter on Monday, he wrote: “No-one should have to live in a home with these conditions – and it should not take years to put them right.

“I am deeply disappointed that as one of the largest social housing landlords, who should be setting an example, you have not been able to meet fundamental standards for your tenants.”

He added: “I intend to take a personal and direct interest in your association’s approach to housing conditions, engagement with residents and vulnerable complainants in particular.”

In response, Clare Miller, chief executive of Clarion Housing Group, said she will “never shirk our responsibility to provide and maintain good quality homes”.

She said: “We have not got every decision right as an organisation, but we are making good progress and recently published a detailed update on the actions we have taken to significantly improve our service.

“There is no quick fix to the housing crisis and the UK has some of the oldest housing stock in the world.

“As a charitable organisation, we will continue to do all we can to meet this challenge and we hope the Government will work with us on our common goals.”

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