Have you spotted the Housing Ombudsman's 'Spotlight Report on damp and mould - It's not lifestyle' and a significant change to its jurisdiction announced on 26 October 2021? See here.

With 56% maladministration found in 410 complaints over two years, ITV revelations, huge numbers of legal claims with high legal costs being faced by many social landlords, and tenants feeling "immense frustration and sense of unfairness", "patronised" or even "stigmatised", the key headlines are:

  • Social landlords should adopt a zero-tolerance approach to damp and mould and give addressing it a higher priority.
  • Improving the tone of communications such as banishing the word 'lifestyle' in reference to condensation and mould growth.
  • A change in culture from reactive to proactive - from inferring blame to taking responsibility.
  • A change to the Ombudsman's official jurisdiction, meaning that landlords should keep their complaints procedures open until legal proceedings have actually been issued. Use of the housing conditions (or indeed any other) pre-action protocol by a tenant is not now considered by the Ombudsman's legal action and will not stop them considering a complaint.   

This clearly will open up parallel tracks - a landlord needing to deal with both a complaint and a pre-action protocol housing conditions claim at the same time. The Ombudsman hopes that this will "maximise the opportunities to resolve disputes outside of court"

There is also new October 2021 guidance on managing pre-action protocol housing condition claims and the reminder that the Ombudsman will "when assessing cases involving potential legal claims, often consider how the landlord handled both the substantive repairs complained of and the associated formal complaint"

If a landlord's standard response to a complaint has been to close it when a pre-action protocol claim commences, then procedures now need to be amended. 

Note the Ombudsman's recommendation too that landlords make greater use of disrepair intelligence and data to prevent issues, identify themes, trends and learning opportunities. Good practice examples are referred to. 

This is a robust report backed up by a large number of consultation responses and all landlords will need to consider its recommendations carefully.