‘We’re very sorry’: Islington Council apologises to residents after being chastised by housing watchdog over its complaints-handling

Islington Council chief executive Linzi Roberts-Egan

A housing watchdog has told Town Hall bosses to pull their socks up in the way they deal with complaints from residents.

Islington Council is one of 32 social housing landlords criticised for their failings in more than half the cases brought to the Housing Ombudsman.

It ruled that maladministration or partial maladministration was to blame in 55 per cent of the complaints about Islington Council.

Maladministration is where the landlord “failed to comply with its legal obligations, its policies and procedures or unreasonably delayed in dealing with the matter”.

Out of 21 Islington cases the watchdog looked into between April 2021 and March 2022, it found maladministration in eight and partial maladministration in six.

Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway told the council’s chief executive Linzi Roberts-Egan: “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.”

The council made reasonable redress in four cases, with no evidence of maladministration in a further two cases, and one case was outside of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

Blakeway said the cost-of-living crisis and aging homes are challenging for landlords “but a positive complaints-handling culture remains vital”.

Cases included problems in replacing uneven paving slabs in the garden of a resident with multiple sclerosis, handling of complaints by another resident about anti-social behaviour, and damp and mould problems.

The council was ordered to pay out hundreds of pounds for the way it dealt with the problems.

The Ombudsman is also carrying out an urgent review into the way the council dealt with damp and mould problems after its “poor handling” of reports and complaints.

Una O’Halloran, the executive member for homes and communities, responded: “We want everyone in Islington to have a place to call home, which is secure, decent and genuinely affordable.”

She said: “We’re very sorry that in some cases concerns raised by our residents were not resolved more quickly and effectively and had to be taken to the Housing Ombudsman.”

She added: “We’re reviewing all the cases highlighted by the Ombudsman to see how they could have been handled differently and better, and contacting all of the residents involved to make sure the steps we’ve taken were effective. We will also review our complaints system.”

Last month, Cllr O’Halloran unveiled extra measures to deal with problems of damp and mould after the case of a family forced to abandon their bedrooms were highlighted by housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa.

The council offered the family alternative accommodation and is reviewing what went wrong.

It is also reviewing all work done to tackle mould and damp over the last three years and has created a phone line for people concerned their health is being impacted by the problem.

The council is also pumping an extra £1m a year into a new damp and mould team, and training staff to spot the signs if they visit people’s homes for other reasons.