Housing watchdog rebukes Camden for ‘concerning’ rate of maladministration in its handling of complaints

Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway. Photograph: Housing Ombudsman

Housing bosses have been told to improve the way they deal with complaints after a watchdog found maladministration in more than half the cases it looked at.

These include a resident who was assaulted in his block of flats and raised concerns about drug-related anti-social behaviour and asked the council to act swiftly.

Camden Council was one of 32 social landlords where maladministration featured in more than half the complaints about them investigated by the Housing Ombudsman last year.

It found this played a role in 59 per cent of the complaints about Camden.

The Ombudsman found maladministration in eight of the 24 complaints it investigated at Camden council. It said there was partial maladministration in nine. It found no maladministration in four cases, and a further three cases were outside its jurisdiction.

In one case, a disabled resident raised concerns about anti-social behaviour and fears for his safety because of drug addicts visiting his block despite the lockdown to see an alleged Class A drug dealer.

The council gathered evidence to remove the alleged dealer but was criticised for delays.

Other complaints included hold-ups in fixing problems caused by a leak, and the case of a resident living in “semi-darkness” for months because of scaffolding outside their home.

In his letter to Camden’s chief executive Jenny Rowlands, Ombudsman Richard Blakeway said: “While there are many separate, often conflicting, pressures placed on landlords and their finances, a positive complaints handling culture remains vital.

“Clearly such a high rate of maladministration is concerning and for issues to occur across this proportion of findings suggests improvements could be made to prevent complaints.”

He said Camden’s maladministration rate is higher than the average for the sector.

Responding to the report, a Camden spokeswoman said: “We want all of our residents to live in well-maintained, safe homes and to get the best possible service if there is ever an issue in their home. While we are disappointed by these findings, we seek to learn from them and have taken comprehensive action to complete all the Ombudsman’s recommendations.”

These include a new complaints management system so staff can monitor complaints “in a timelier way and creating a new team dedicated to supporting residents with any repair issues.”

It has also launched a text service for residents to report repairs more easily and is setting up a working group to monitor complaints that have been escalated to the Ombudsman.

The spokeswoman said the council will “continue to improve our processes around complaints handling, building on the changes we have initiated, and lessons learnt, to ensure our residents receive the best possible services that they deserve”.

She said the Ombudsman looked at 70 complaints in 2021/22 and referred nearly three quarters of them back to the council.

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