A Fitzrovia resident has highlighted a catalogue of concerns about unanswered calls, poor repairs, and fears of asking a housing association to do any more work at their home.
The unnamed resident, who is a long-standing tenant of Clarion housing association, told Camden politicians that it filled them with anxiety if anything goes wrong with their home.
In their anonymous deputation in November they highlighted a raft of concerns for a housing scrutiny meeting attended by some of the biggest social housing providers in Camden for their annual quizzing by councillors.
“This year having a 25-year-old boiler replaced took months to organise, my bathroom desperately needs modernisation and possibly some adaptation but I try to avoid asking Clarion for anything because if I could even get them to agree to do work, the processes rarely go smoothly, it is likely to become a huge source of stress and unlikely to be done properly or with any care,” they said.
These included “missed or cancelled appointments, unreturned emails or phone calls and ignored complaints” when they were left without heating or hot water for months in 2018.
Two years later they had problems with a broken toilet and reported “numerous missed appointments and last-minute cancellations” and “dozens of unreturned phone calls and emails”.
They said the job was marked as completed when the toilet was still not repaired.
A report to the scrutiny committee stated that Clarion had the worst complaint record of the four big housing associations providing homes in the borough.
Later speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service the resident, who suffers from poor health, said “it fills me with dread” if work is needed on their Fitzrovia flat.
Answering questions about its service in general Clarion’s head of housing Andrew Nowakowski said it aims to respond rapidly to calls and emails and was rebuilding trust after a cyber attack in June 2022.
He said: “I do not think it is fair to say complaints regularly go unanswered.”
He told councillors that of 256 disrepair claims in north London, just ten per cent were in Camden.
Clarion has also extended its resident liaison service “so residents don’t have to repeat themselves.”
He said it has changed its repairs and maintenance service with a new contractor over a ten year, rather than a three contract.
It comes as the Housing Ombudsman issued a special report into the housing association’s response to reports of mould and damp from residents.
The resident also raised concerns that, despite shielding because they are immunosuppressed, “throughout lockdowns and high prevalence of covid I was still expected to give access to my home at short or no notice to Clarion representatives.”
A Clarion spokeswoman responded: “We are sorry to hear of our resident’s concerns and want to apologise to anyone who feels our service fell short during the pandemic. As this was an anonymous deputation, we can’t comment further on the individual circumstances, but it is the case that we worked hard to ensure a continuity of service during the Covid-19 lockdown periods and all our staff were given clear guidance on safe ways of working, and the appropriate PPE.”
She added: “Repairs appointments are agreed in advance with the resident with the exception of emergency appointments, which are attended to within 24 hours. There was a backlog after the lockdowns, but we’ve made good progress since and are investing significantly in our social homes, both through planned investment and fire safety work.”
The spokeswoman added Clarion staff: “Act on feedback in a drive to continuously improve the service we provide for our residents and just this week announced we’d be hiring 100 new members of staff to help prevent and treat damp and mould in our homes.”
Speaking at the scrutiny meeting Councillor Nancy Jiria (Lib Dem, Fortune Green) said: “The issues [raised by the deputee] could apply across the board.”
She said residents can feel “let down” in their relationships with their landlords.
Councillor Adam Harrison (Labour, Bloomsbury) said: “I have had a huge number of complaints from Clarion tenants.”
Housing Scrutiny Committee – Tuesday, 15th November, 2022 6.30 pm. See also agenda item 13 of Housing Scrutiny Committee – Monday, 12th December, 2022 6.30 pm.