Case Study 35: Pest infestation and complaint handling - Formally resolved

Mr M complained about how his landlord dealt with his reports of a pest infestation (ants), he also complained about how his formal complaint about this was handled.  We found that there was maladministration by the landlord in this case, as the landlord had not responded appropriately to Mr M’s reports of an infestation, or to the formal complaint. The landlord had delayed taking action in response to Mr M’s reports, and did not focus on providing a good level of customer care to its residents.

We found that the landlord’s ‘Pest Policy’ was not clear or comprehensive. For example the policy stated that the landlord would be responsible for the treatment of communal areas, but did not explain who would be responsible when an infestation affected a number of flats in a block as was the case in Mr M’s complaint.

Furthermore the landlord failed to act after being notified of the findings of the local authority’s inspection of the block. The local authority informed the landlord that there was an infestation in a number of flats, that residents’ health was being affected and that it would serve a notice on the landlord to deal with the infestation, but would first give the landlord the opportunity to address matters. However, the landlord delayed in carrying out its own inspection, and did not inspect until the day after the local authority let it know that it had decided to go ahead and serve a notice on the landlord.

We also found that there were failings in how the landlord dealt with Mr M’s complaint about the matter, in particular its failure to escalate the complaint in a timely way. There was a delay of over five months from Mr M’s request for his complaint to be considered at the next stage of the landlord’s complaints procedure until this was actually done. Whilst there was some evidence of communication between the landlord and Mr M during this time, there was no evidence of the landlord providing an explanation for the delays.

We concluded that there had been maladministration in this case. We ordered the landlord to apologise to Mr M, to pay him £500 in compensation for its delay in inspecting and treating the infestation and in recognition of the impact of this on his household, and to pay a further £100 for delays in responding to his formal complaint. We also ordered the landlord to report back to both us and Mr M as to how it intended to amend its policies and procedures in the light of our investigation findings, it and we recommended that it should review and update its Pest Policy.

The landlord subsequently confirmed it had complied with our Orders but it did not give any indication of how it would deal with a similar situation or that it had learnt from the complaint in any other way. In this case the landlord had not worked to any of our dispute resolution principles which are:

 Be Fair, Put Matters Right and Learn from Outcomes