Case Study 5: Complaint handling and compensation

Mr Y originally complained to his landlord about its arrangements for his annual gas safety check. He subsequently complained about the fairness of its final response to his complaint and the level of compensation it offered in recognition of his distress and inconvenience.

When the contractor doing his gas safety check went into administration the landlord informed Mr Y that another contractor would contact him to arrange the gas service. Although the contractor did contact Mr Y to arrange an appointment, it only referred to a radiator repair. A week later the landlord sent Mr Y a warning letter stating that the contractor had attempted to carry out the gas safety check but had been unable to gain access.

Mr Y complained about the letter and that the contractor had effectively called him a liar. He asked for £1,000 compensation. The landlord apologised that Mr Y felt offended and explained that the letter had been automatically generated. However Mr Y thought the letter had been unfair given that the appointment did not mention the safety check.

The landlord acknowledged that this was true and again apologised to Mr Y. It also confirmed that the contractor would be instructed to record information about appointments and access more accurately in future, and that this would be monitored by the landlord. When Mr Y said that he did not accept that these actions had resolved the matter the landlord arranged a review panel. However, Mr Y said that he did not receive notification of the date or a copy of the relevant paperwork until the morning of the meeting, when the landlord telephoned him to confirm his attendance. The landlord apologised to Mr Y and offered to postpone the meeting but Mr Y agreed to proceed that day.

The landlord’s offer to postpone the hearing was a fair response, although Mr Y not receiving notification or the paperwork was due to the postal service rather than any failing by the landlord.

Mr Y asked for £1,000 compensation for his distress and inconvenience including the cost to him of making his complaint. In the absence of any evidence of costs other than those which could reasonably be expected such as postage and phone calls it was reasonable of the landlord to reject Mr Y’s request. This demonstrated that whilst putting things right is important it does not necessarily mean financial redress but as in this case can be by way of apology or changed procedures.