Croydon Council’s housing department and repairs contractors need to change their ways, following the publication of an official report into “appalling” conditions endured by council tenants, many of whom have been found to be ignored by their landlords and even blamed for the damp and mould in their homes.
The Housing Ombudsman is demanding a culture change from social housing landlords, including local authorities such as Croydon. The report was commissioned following television news reports earlier this year which exposed the dangerous living conditions of flats in a council block in South Norwood, where families were forced to live in uninhabitable conditions, in homes riddled with mould, damp, leaks and collapsing ceilings.
Richard Blakeway, the Ombudsman, said he was “shocked” by the conditions that Croydon Council tenants were having to endure in the Regina Road blocks, and that his office had found other examples around England where other landlords had failed to take proper responsibility for the disrepairs in their properties.
Many landlords, according to the Ombudsman, tended to blame their tenants for issues.
The Housing Ombudsman’s report echoes many of the findings of an independent report into the state of the Croydon flats, with Blakeway saying councils and housing associations lack empathy and respect for residents.
The Ombudsman investigated 142 social housing providers and spoke to hundreds of tenants.
Blakeway said that he demands “changes in culture, behaviour and approach; from being reactive to proactive, and from inferring blame to taking responsibility”.
Blakeway – a former adviser to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London – said, “The recent media coverage clearly demonstrates the significant impact on residents when things do go wrong, complaints are not responded to appropriately, and lessons are not learned.
“There is a strong legislative and policy basis to prevent these issues arising but it is clear that despite this, residents are still facing problems, sometimes extreme problems, and landlords are struggling to resolve these. This means we need a fresh approach.”
He said the distress caused by landlords’ failure to resolve mould and damp cases was “the most profound we have seen”, raising concerns about tenants’ physical and mental health, and stressing the impact on children.
It has also led, the report states, to “the loss of trust and reputation.”
The report makes 26 recommendations to councils and housing associations, including:
- adopt a zero-tolerance approach to damp and mould interventions
- review the accessibility and use of their systems for reporting repairs and making complaints (in other words, make sure the contact phone lines are staffed properly)
- improve staff training
- avoid automatically apportioning blame or using language that leaves residents feeling blamed
- treat residents with “respect and empathy”
Read more: Investigation into housing scandal finds systemic failure and incompetence
Read more: Croydon shamed over ‘dangerous squalor’ in council flats
Read more: Regina Road residents shiver as they face £2,000 heating bills
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