Elderly woman left in Westminster flat needing repairs 'for years' receives £21k payout

Elderly woman gripping a walking cane
-Credit: (Image: PA)

A disabled elderly tenant was left in a flat needing repairs 'for years' by Westminster City Council. The local author has agreed to pay £21,000 in compensation as a result of their 'significant failures'.

It said it was 'deeply sorry' for the distress it had caused the tenant and felt the large payout reflected the gravity of its failures. Councillors voted unanimously on Wednesday night (June 5) to approve the payment.

A council spokesperson said: “Providing safe and secure housing for our residents is a key priority for the council and we accept that we have not met our own high standards.

"We are working with the resident and their family to resolve as quickly as possible and have offered alternative housing. The council has taken on board the lessons from this case as part of our wider work to and will work to ensure residents are given the best possible service in the future.

"We are making changes as part of our Housing Improvement Strategy, which includes routine reviews and a more joined-up approach to address complex cases.”

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Westminster City Council offices on Victoria Street.
Westminster City Council has apologised and paid the tenant more than £21k -Credit:Google

The council will now ask residents to share their health and support needs when they report repairs in order to respond to individual needs and is reviewing its complaints process. It has also rolled out customer service and safeguarding training across its housing services.

MyLondon also understands the head of housing has offered to meet residents to discuss their concerns. It has also made two offers of suitable housing and will continue to support the residents.

An internal review found there had been significant failures on the council’s part to deal with requests for repairs by the tenant. As a result, it will hand back £16,000 in rent paid since May 2020 and pay out £5,000 for distress and delays, which is blamed on staff moving on and a failure to log requests, according to a council report.

Westminster City was made aware of repair issues at the flat in May 2020 when the tenant, who is a wheelchair user and has multiple illnesses, asked for adaptations to be made before they returned from hospital. The council installed a level access shower and a new central heating.

In July 2022, the council was contacted by the tenant’s local MP who complained about many years of disrepair at the property and how it was affecting the elderly and ill tenants. The complaint was dismissed by the council which said it had not received a request for repairs in 12 months.

The local authority also said officers had made attempts to visit the flat but were unsuccessful because the tenants, who have not been identified, needed their daughter there to help them. The complaint was escalated in September 2022 but it took the council six months to log it and another six weeks to respond.

It then took the council a further seven months to deal with the resident’s refusal of a compensation offer and a further four-week delay in addressing their request for a review. An interview review of the case was only triggered after the resident wrote in requesting £110,000 in compensation for the distress the delays had caused.

The review found the council did not address issues raised in the original complaint nor recognise the vulnerability of the tenant. It also found the council’s response contained 'inaccuracies' about ad-hoc visits being arranged and a failure of repairmen to log issues and pass them on.

The report said: “This review has found significant service failures in both dealing with the repairs and responding to the complaint, as well as missed opportunities to discuss a move to more suitable housing with the tenant.”

The tenant has since been moved into care while the joint tenant is receiving help finding permanent housing.

The council sought the permission of the General Purposes Committee to pay the tenant £21,407 in compensation. According to the council, compensation payments over £2,000 need to come before the General Purposes committee to meet its own financial regulations.

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