The Housing Ombudsman said it was ‘highly alarming’ that a notable proportion of landlords were not aware of its October 2021 ‘It’s not lifestyle’ spotlight report, or felt it held no relevance to them and their handling of damp and mould complaints. In the Ombudsman’s latest update report, it said that only 26 out of the 40 landlords that were asked what had been done as a result of the report had responded.
The Ombudsman said that of the sampled landlords, 35% now have a specific damp and mould policy with streamlined processes for identifying and responding to damp and mould reports. 12% were in the process of implementing one, 19% had self-assessed against the recommendations and 41% of landlords who had self-assessed against the recommendations had not made any changes.
In the update report the Ombudsman outlined 10 key factors in which Landlords should be assessing their own approach:
⦁ Find your silence – Landlords should analyse who is not using their complaints process, and why.
⦁ Proactive communication strategy – Ensure advice given to residents is provided in multiple formats and that the tone of the message is correct.
⦁ Treat residents fairly – Treat each case individually even where similar cases have been seen before.
⦁ Improve record keeping – It is essential to use an intelligence-based approach, but this requires good knowledge and information management. It helps to prevent complaints being raised and/or escalated as landlords are able to communicate efficiently with residents and answer queries without the need for the resident to continuously chase.
⦁ Know your residents – Occupancy factors may include overcrowding and the availability and use of heating and ventilation systems. They also include individual circumstances such as disability, financial hardship, and health conditions.
⦁ Check net zero plans – Landlords need to consider whether a green drive will push people into fuel poverty, particularly as electrical heating costs more than gas.
⦁ Know your stock – Structural factors include property age, design, and modifications.
⦁ Dedicated damp and mould strategy – This should include looking wider than the individual report(s) raised and look for themes and trends.
⦁ Empower staff – Landlords are encouraged to consider the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Professional Standards if they have not already done so.
⦁ Use the complaints system to learn – Continue to use the complaints process, even where legal action has been suggested, as there still may be an opportunity to resolve the matter. Analyse the complaints received to look for common as well as emerging themes and trends.