Case Study 17: Repairs and compensation

Ms C complained about her landlord’s delay in repairing her property and the level of compensation offered.

Ms C reported that the property was damp on a number of occasions over a 5-10 year period. The uncertainty over this timescale was partly due to poor record-keeping by the landlord. The landlord’s inspections in 2008 and 2009 confirmed that there was damp which had caused serious damage to the building. Ms C said that this made some rooms uninhabitable.

No action was taken following these inspections and so Ms C continued to complain until the landlord made a further inspection in 2011. Repair work began in April 2011 and was completed in June 2012; over five years after Ms C first reported the damp.

Ms C was offered compensation of four weeks’ rent, plus £110 to cover her costs. Although she accepted this offer, the compensation was not paid as Ms C did not sign a disclaimer to say that the payment was in full and final settlement of the complaint. The landlord’s complaints panel confirmed the compensation offer and also agreed to pay £150 to reimburse Ms C for the cost of her telephone line.

We found that there had been maladministration by the landlord. There was no evidence that the panel had considered the length of time that the damp and mould had affected Ms C and so the compensation offer was disproportionately low. We ordered the landlord to pay the compensation already offered, plus four weeks’ rent for each of the five years during which it had failed to do the repairs.

Our view was that it was not appropriate for the landlord to require that the compensation was accepted ‘in full and final settlement’ as this did not promote dispute resolution through the complaints procedure. We also emphasised the need for landlords to keep clear records of repair works, as poor record-keeping can prevent complaints from being resolved successfully.

The landlord accepted our findings, met with and apologised to Ms C and paid her the agreed amount of compensation (£2,435).

As a result of our findings and a discussion with our adjudicator, the landlord voluntarily reviewed its other complaints about disrepair to ensure that it had not made similar mistakes in those cases. It also produced an action plan to improve its repair procedures, complaint-handling and record-keeping. Finally, the landlord’s senior management team looked at the lessons to be learned from Ms C’s complaint and discussed how to improve the organisation’s complaints culture.

This case demonstrates how a landlord can learn from the outcomes of a complaint and respond positively to the Ombudsman’s findings.