Ombudsman starts investigation into damp and mouldy flats

Croydon’s Labour-run council is likely to come under renewed pressure to publish the findings of its “urgent” investigation into the appalling conditions in residential towers in South Norwood, after the Housing Ombudsman announced today a full-scale national investigation of his own into damp and mould in rented accommodation.

“It will enable the Ombudsman to make recommendations and share best practice to help landlords develop their services and improve the experience of residents,” the Ombudsman’s office said in announcing its probe.

The Housing Ombudsman is Richard Blakeway, who between 2012 and 2016 served as deputy mayor of London for housing, in an appointment made by the then Tory Mayor, Boris Johnson. Thus the timing of this announcement, when a crisis-hit Labour-run council in Croydon is bungling its response to a housing scandal, may not be entirely coincidental.

Announcing Blakeway’s review today, the Housing Ombudsman’s office stated, “An initial review of our case data identified a high rate of maladministration on cases that feature damp and mould…

“Compensation is also high with a total of £68,000 ordered in the same period, indicating a significant impact on residents in some cases.”

Multiple council flats in South Norwood had appalling amounts of damp and mould

The Croydon residents worst affected by the water leaks, damp and mould in the council blocks on Regina Road, which became a national scandal after it was exposed by ITV News, have been moved to alternative accommodation since the broadcast. A special inquiry into the circumstances that led to the flats being in such appalling condition has delivered its report to the council, which has decided not to publish it. That report could be used as evidence for many of the council tenants’ own compensation claims.

The Housing Ombudsman will accept evidence submissions from both landlords and residents towards its investigation.

Blakeway said: “A decent home is a fundamental need but the impact of damp and mould can be significant on households, their health and their life chances.

“Our casebook gives cause for concern, with a high maladministration rate and sometimes substantial levels of compensation, although I am also concerned that we are not seeing cases where we could help, and want to investigate further into this issue.

Richard Blakeway: Ombudsman seeking evidence of damp, mould and maladministration

“Using our new powers, we want to look in-depth at the response of social landlords to damp and mould issues. I want us to make far-reaching recommendations to promote greater understanding and learning, helping landlords develop their approach to the benefit of residents.

“This is an important and timely investigation, and we are inviting residents and landlords, whether we have handled complaints with them or not, to contribute to this investigation alongside the evidence from our casebook. We look forward to your submissions.”

The Ombudsman’s office explained that its call for evidence will not respond to individual complaints.

Residents can find more information on the complaint process here.

Read more: Ali accused of cover-up over findings on council flats scandal
Read more: Croydon shamed over ‘dangerous squalor’ in council flats
Read more: ‘Is it because the council don’t care? Where is their humanity?’

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3 Responses to Ombudsman starts investigation into damp and mouldy flats

  1. It would be useful for the Ombudsman to include Private Landlords using their premises for social lettings as there are many of these in Croydon.

  2. Croydon council should refund the rent the victims paid them since the date their first complaints were lodged and waive it until the date they are returned to habitable accommodation.

    • That’s “at least”, surely? What about the risk to health of multiple occupiers of those flats, especially minors? That requires some compensation. And damages for neglect of duty and incompetence, too.

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