Camden Council housing managers have been told to improve the way they deal with complaints after a watchdog found maladministration in more than half the cases it looked at from April 2021 to March 2022.
Camden was one of 32 social landlords across England where maladministration featured in more than half the complaints about them investigated by the Housing Ombudsman Service.
It found this played a role in 59 percent of the complaints about Camden.
The ombudsman found maladministration in eight, or 33 percent, of the 24 complaints it investigated at Camden.
It said there was partial maladministration in nine, or 38 percent of cases. It found no maladministration in four cases, 17 percent, and a further three cases, or 13 percent, of the complaints were outside its jurisdiction.
In one case a disabled resident raised concerns about anti-social behaviour and fears for his safety because of drug addicts visiting his block despite the lockdown to see an alleged class A drug dealer. The council gathered evidence to remove the alleged dealer but was criticised for delays.
Other complaints included delays in fixing problems caused by a leak, and the case of a resident living in “semi darkness” for months because of scaffolding outside their home because of delays to work at their block of flats.
In his letter to Camden’s chief executive Jenny Rowlands the ombudsman said: “While there are many separate, often conflicting, pressures placed on landlords and their finances, a positive complaints handling culture remains vital.
“Clearly such a high rate of maladministration is concerning and for issues to occur across this proportion of findings suggests improvements could be made to prevent complaints.”
Ombudsman Richard Blakeway said Camden’s maladministration rate is higher than the average for the sector.
Responding to the report a Camden spokesperson said: “We want all of our residents to live in well-maintained, safe homes and to get the best possible service if there is ever an issue in their home. While we are disappointed by these findings, we seek to learn from them and have taken comprehensive action to complete all the Ombudsman’s recommendations.”
These include a new complaints management system so staff can monitor complaints “in a timelier way and creating a new team dedicated to supporting residents with any repair issues they may have.”
It has also launched a text service for residents to report repairs easily and is setting up a working group to monitor complaints people escalated to the ombudsman.
The spokesperson said the council will “continue to improve our processes around complaints handling, building on the changes we have initiated, and lessons learnt, to ensure our residents receive the best possible services that they deserve.”
They said the ombudsman looked at 70 complaints in 2021-22 and referred nearly three quarters back to Camden.
The Housing Ombudsman is a free, independent, and impartial service to look at complaints about housing organisations. Residents and landlords can contact the Ombudsman for support in helping to resolve a dispute.