Council told to pay compensation and retrain staff after Essex home left ‘covered in mould’

Stock image of mould in home
-Credit: (Image: MyLondon)

Colchester City Council has been ordered to pay almost £1,000 in compensation and retrain staff after a tenant's home was left “covered in mould” - sparking an investigation by the Housing Ombudsman.

The regulatory authority probed how the council’s homes company, Colchester Borough Homes, had dealt with the complaint and it found there was maladministration by the landlord regarding its handling of the residents’ reports of dampness, mould and the associated repairs and maladministration in the landlord’s complaint handling.

A report ahead of Colchester Council’s cabinet meeting, scheduled for July 10, shows how in July 2022, the council tenant, reported plaster was coming off the chimney breast around the fireplace at their home. Then, in November 2022 the resident reported “condensation dripping” from the ceiling of her son’s bedroom.

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The resident contacted the council a number of times to raise concerns about the work being carried out and their dissatisfaction with how the issue had been dealt with. The resident contacted the Housing Ombudsman in November 2023 and asked it to investigate her complaint. She told the watchdog the bedroom in the property was “covered in mould”, and in the winter months she had water “dripping” from the ceilings, the council meeting papers reveal.

The Housing Ombudsman ordered that the council pay the resident £950 in compensation, conduct training with its complaint handling staff conduct a review into its handling of the resident’s reports of dampness, mould, and the associated repairs, and identify points of learning to reduce the risk of similar failings occurring again.

The council was also ordered to instruct an appropriately qualified, independent surveyor, to inspect the resident’s property and identify any repairs needed, write to the resident to outline when it plans to upgrade the cavity wall insulation and its position on the bee infestation, and how it can support the resident to address it.

The Housing Ombudsman also found the landlord’s record keeping around the repairs was poor, and it was at times unclear on what action it had taken or needed to take and the landlord failed to show learning about its admitted failings. It also found there was a minor delay in sending the stage 1 response, which the council failed to acknowledge.

A spokesperson for Colchester Borough Homes, said: “We are committed to providing high-quality housing and services to our tenants. We recognise that we fell short of this commitment in a recent case that was the subject of a Housing Ombudsman investigation.

“In April, the Housing Ombudsman Service identified maladministration in our response to a resident’s report of damp, mould, and associated repairs, as well as in our complaint handling. We take these findings very seriously.

“We have completed all actions required by the Ombudsman, including offering appropriate compensation, scheduling independent inspections to identify and address any necessary repairs, reviewing our handling of damp and mould reports to prevent similar issues and providing complaint handling staff with additional training.

“We are committed to learning from these experiences and continuously improving our services. We remain dedicated to providing high-quality housing and a positive living environment and sincerely apologise to the tenant involved in this case for the distress and inconvenience they experienced."