The Housing Ombudsman - who presides over social housing landlords - has issued his report on what he calls the “deeply distressing” case of a tenant who took his own life.
The issue concerns Clarion Housing Association, one of the country’s largest HAs 125,000 properties across over 170 local authorities, housing some 350,000 people.
The Housing Ombudsman has found severe maladministration after a resident ended his own life following long-running mental health issues and a nine-month noise nuisance complaint.
A statement from the Ombudsman says: “We determined that Clarion’s lack of consideration of the resident’s vulnerability when handling his complaints about noise led to the resident suffering over a nine-month period. In the same month the resident first reported the noise issues, which were related to wooden flooring above and children jumping, the resident attempted an overdose, blaming it on the noise nuisance he was suffering. Despite the landlord recording vulnerabilities for the resident, it did not tailor its responses effectively.”
He continues: “In its first response to the resident, the landlord sent a standard Anti Social Behaviour (ASB) letter, agreed to speak to the neighbour and created an action plan for the issue. The neighbour agreed to having carpet fitted, but the resident soon spoke about the little difference this made. At this time, there was no risk assessment conducted by the landlord.
“The landlord said it would not install sounds monitoring equipment due to the Covid-19 lockdown occurring at the time, which was not a reasonable position to take during this time as whilst there were still some restrictions in place, government guidance stated that landlords could carry out repairs and safety inspections.
“When the resident filed two more noise reports, he was once again sent the standard ASB letter he was sent months previously. Over the course of four months, the resident completed 18 noise reports and noise recordings were sent to the landlord but due to some software issues, not all were listened to.
A visit to the property by the landlord found ‘considerable transmission of both noise and movement from the flat above into the resident’s flat’ but nothing more was done.”
After a coroner’s hearing, the Ombudsman ordered Clarion to write a letter of apology to the residents’ family, to review its record keeping, and to review its vulnerable resident’s policy paying regard to how it manages reports of non-statutory noise nuisance, including the use of reasonable adjustments.
A statement from Clarion says: “We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family and an unreserved apology for all shortcomings in the service we provided the resident. We recognise that our communication process should have been far better and we accept the recommendations of the Ombudsman with humility.
“The case and actions taken have been reviewed by the senior management team, and our chief customer officer has personally written to the family.
“We continue to make improvements to how we record and act on vulnerability of our residents and we have reviewed our automated letters process to ensure an appropriate response is issued in line with our vulnerability support policy. Our tenancy sustainment and welfare team, who worked with the resident alongside external agencies, also offer advice to our residents and signpost to extra support when required.
“We have also amended our management transfer policy so that includes a broader consideration of risk which better takes into account exceptional circumstances.”
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