Ombudsman writes to social landlords about ‘serious concerns’ over window-related complaints | News

The Housing Ombudsman has written an open letter to the bosses of all social housing providers in England expressing his concern over window safety.

Richard Blakeway said he has been concerned for several months about the handling of some complaints involving windows. He said it is becoming “routine” for window repairs to be delayed due to a lack of resources.

In the letter he said: “Our investigations show that landlords have not always responded in a timely manner, and sometimes important repairs have been deferred.

“In one case we investigated, the window eventually fell out into the garden below. In others, residents have had their windows boarded up for years.

He said that “ultimately there needs to be a national conversation about these issues leading to a new, revised Decent Homes Standard.”

But in the meantime, Blakeway said landlords should review their own complaints relating to windows to identify any actions they should be taking. He also outlines four “core lessons” for providers (See box below)

The ombudsman’s four ‘core lessons’ on window-related complaints

  • Ensure it (the landlord) undertakes a risk assessment where appropriate based on the individual circumstances of the household, and the landlord being able to demonstrate it has recognised, responded and recorded its actions.
  • Ensure that all relevant expertise, including independent surveyors, is engaged and that the landlord’s actions in response to recommendations are reasonable, clear and consistent.
  • Ensure decisions to defer repairs or respond with more limited repairs where major works are planned are reasonable and are justified on the basis of the landlord’s obligations under the Landlord and Tenant Act, and not primarily on the basis of cost.
  • Ensure information provided to residents on the operation of windows, especially where new windows have been installed, is clear, comprehensive and accessible.

The ombudsman plans to publish its decisions on window-related complaints shortly, which it said “will support landlord learning and improve future responses”.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “It is becoming routine for me to see cases where repairs to windows are delayed, sometimes for years, because of resources.

“Safe, secure and well-maintained windows are fundamental to a decent home. I know many landlords are being proactive and it is important, given the operational pressures facing the sector, that all are.

>>See also: Ombudsman and Regulator of Social Housing set out how they will work together

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“There are clear and consistent failings in our casework, and we are committed to working collaboratively with landlords to share lessons to help them meet the needs of residents.

“These issues also underscore the chronic underinvestment in social housing and the need for a national conversation leading to a new, revised Decent Homes Standard alongside building the next generation of social homes.”