Written evidence submitted by Mrs Lynn Cluer [RSH 013]
Social Housing, especially through Housing Associations, is an absolute joke. I have a flat which was shared ownership. Unfortunately, shared ownership is nothing to do with owning an actual piece of property. It is solely owning the right to live in someone else’s property for the duration of a prescribed contract time. A lease, these are leasehold and leave the leaseholder with less right than anyone renting.
Housing associations have no interest in their tenants/leaseholders. All they want is their money every month for doing very little. Reporting repairs is very hit and miss and as in my case taking years to even have a full inspection to find a source of a leak. Unfortunately, this is still not remedied, there is still water ingress and the HA have absolutely no idea how to deal with it.
Reporting a repair is a nightmare. Most of the time tenants cannot get through to the correct department on the phone. Reporting a problem online is also very hit and miss with repair reports very often going unseen and unrecorded. The service charges are far too high for the service delivered. Gardening, which in our case relates to mowing lawns once a month, the lawns are quite small just at the front and one side of the block. There are no bedding plants, no shrubs other than those from when the flats were built and for £65 a month this seems excessive for what is done. This is £65 every month, even in Winter when lawns do not need to be mowed.
When things do go wrong, the situation is abysmal with housing associations. They consistently fail to read any complaint. Consistently pass complaints from one department to another and from one person to another. Housing associations are answerable to no one. They fail to follow their own complaints and repair policies therefore prolonging the stress for any tenant trying to have issued dealt with.
Housing associations should be forced to buy back shared ownership properties, especially where there are difficulties. Housing associations refuse outright to allow suspension of THEIR charges when tenants have difficulties. They would rather wait until they can issue a forfeiture notice so taking absolutely every penny from a shared owner who is in difficulty.
Housing associations are supposed to be not for profit charities who should be helping house those on lower incomes. This is completely false, they don’t.
Housing associations and any other body offering social housing is totally unregulated. The Housing Ombudsman can act on behalf of tenants/leaseholders, but the housing associations do not have to follow the orders or recommendations given. I have first-hand experience of that.
There is no system to ensure tenants are properly compensated for failures to repair, time it takes to effect a satisfactory repair or making sure the costs are reasonable. There is no system to ensure if there are several failed attempts at the same repair, the charges for this are not passed onto the tenant or leaseholder.
Social housing suppliers, especially housing associations, should ensure housing offered is of a good quality and built to a good standard incorporating all building regulations. Most new builds are inspected, if you can call it that, by an ‘in house’ building inspector instead of a fully qualified, fully independent inspector who is not receiving any sort of a commission from the developer or social housing provider.
The Housing Ombudsman needs to have for more powers. They need to be able to take into account the full length of time it takes and the number of attempts it takes before a repair is satisfactorily carried out. At the moment they can only look at very recent incidents. The Ombudsman needs to have enough powers to be able to prosecute housing associations for maladministration. Powers at the moment do not ensure maladministration is properly penalised and proper remedies are offered to tenants.
The Housing Ombudsman should have far more powers to fine any association who offers social housing for failing to comply with the Ombudsman’s code of practice. If they don’t then they should be named and shamed. The Ombudsman should have far more powers to ensure payment is made to tenants in compensation for social housing suppliers, housing associations being the worst culprits, for their failure to ensure they follow their own policies relating to repairs and complaints.
Social housing suppliers, especially housing associations, should be made accountable for decisions made to engage companies directly connected to their associations. There should be a much fairer scheme of tendering, unlike the ‘jobs for the friends’ or ‘jobs for the boys’, culture at present existing. This would lead to a much fairer use of tenant’s money so they are no longer ripped off.
When it comes to leaseholds, the situation of assigned leases needs to be overhauled. I have a flat, bought as a shared ownership but the lease is in the first tenant’s name. I have now staircased to 100% but the lease is still written in the first tenants’ name. The Ombudsman should take action against social housing suppliers when a term in a lease is broken but the social housing supplier refuses to acknowledge this. The same is true of any tenancy agreement where a landlord fails to honour his part of any agreement. This should result in heavy fines for the supplier, or the same remedial action taken against the social housing supplier as would be taken against any tenant or leaseholder should they breach the lease.
Any building faults, even when they are found years after construction, for example, failure to install cavity trays above windows causing leaks, or smoke seals around flat doors causing very expensive installation after construction, leaseholders should not have to pay for, rental tenants would not be expected to pay.
Far, far more strict regulations should be in place for all social housing suppliers and CEOs should not have eye watering salaries at our expense, nor should they have mega pension pots when we as social housing leaseholders are being regularly ripped off and can do nothing about it.