London council ‘failed tenant and left them in disgraceful conditions’, says Michael Gove

Housing Secretary Michael Gove (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
Housing Secretary Michael Gove (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Michael Gove has slammed Lambeth Council for “failing tenants” after a resident was left with boarded up windows for nearly two years.

The housing secretary publicly named and shamed the London local authority after the Housing Ombudsman found “severe maladministration” in how it dealt with the resident’s complaints.

The ombudsman found that council officials had left the woman with boarded up windows in the depths of winter after the glass fell out of her fifth floor flat - calling it “simply not acceptable”.

Mould then destroyed her possessions and made living there “intolerable”.

Naming three social housing landlords, including Lambeth on Wednesday, Mr Gove said: “Each of these landlords have failed their tenants, letting people suffer in disgraceful conditions while refusing to listen to complaints or treat them with respect.”

Also criticised were Orbit Housing and Birmingham City Council, which have also had “severe maladministration” findings upheld against them this year after tenants brought complaints.

A new Social Housing Bill is due to become law next year, which will give the regulator the ability to enter properties with 48 hours notice for emergency repairs and make landlords foot the bill.

Mr Gove said it would leave any failing social housing landlords with “nowhere to hide”.

But Labour-run Lambeth said it had already improved standards for tenants - and that it had suffered under 12 years of cuts “by the Conservative governments that Michael Gove has been a key part of”.

Councillor Timothy Windle said council officials would be “happy” to talk Mr Gove through improvements made, and that it had apologised to residents let down by poor repairs.

He said action taken by the council included replacing private contractors who aren’t up to scratch, carrying out a stock survey on the council’s properties, and a new arbitration scheme for tenants.

"Lambeth has one of the largest housing stocks in the country and therefore has particularly suffered the impact of 12 years of cuts in funding by the Conservative governments that Michael Gove has been a key part of,” he said.

“We welcome his new-found recognition that social housing conditions in this country are letting many people down - but will wait to see if this stance is backed up with the powers and funding needed to improve conditions, not just warm words.”

Around 10 per cent of social housing fails to meet a ‘decent home’ standard, according to statistics earlier this month from the English Housing Survey.

The issue of poor quality social housing was thrown into sharp focus last month with the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in Rochdale.

A coroner ruled that the toddler had died of a respiratory condition as a result of exposure to mould in the family home, which was owned by housing association Rochdale Borough Homes.