The Housing Ombudsman, responsible for overseeing social housing landlords, has released a report addressing a tragic incident where a tenant took his own life. This case involves Clarion Housing Association, one of the UK’s largest housing associations, managing 125,000 properties across over 170 local authorities and accommodating around 350,000 residents.
The report by the Housing Ombudsman reveals significant maladministration in a situation where a resident tragically ended his life after struggling with long-standing mental health challenges and a nine-month noise complaint.
The Ombudsman’s statement highlights a troubling situation: “We found that Clarion’s failure to consider the resident’s vulnerability when addressing his noise complaints resulted in prolonged suffering for the resident over nine months. In the same month the resident first reported noise issues related to wooden flooring and children jumping above, he attempted an overdose, citing the noise nuisance as the cause. Despite the landlord’s knowledge of the resident’s vulnerabilities, its responses were inadequate.”
He further explains: “In their initial response to the resident, the landlord sent a standard Anti Social Behaviour (ASB) letter, agreed to communicate with the neighbor, and devised an action plan for the issue. The neighbor agreed to install carpet, but the resident soon voiced that this made little difference. Importantly, during this period, the landlord failed to conduct any risk assessment.”
The landlord’s response was criticized for not installing sound monitoring equipment during the Covid-19 lockdown, which, according to government guidance, allowed for repairs and safety inspections.
Despite the resident filing two additional noise reports, the landlord continued to send the same standard Anti Social Behaviour (ASB) letter used months earlier. Over a span of four months, the resident submitted 18 noise reports, and although noise recordings were provided to the landlord, some went unheard due to software issues.
A property visit by the landlord confirmed “considerable transmission of both noise and movement from the flat above into the resident’s flat,” but no further action was taken.
Following a coroner’s hearing, the Ombudsman instructed Clarion to draft an apology letter to the resident’s family. They were also directed to conduct reviews of their record-keeping practices and their policy concerning vulnerable residents, with a particular focus on managing reports of non-statutory noise nuisance and the implementation of reasonable adjustments.
Clarion issued a statement expressing their heartfelt condolences to the family and offering an unreserved apology for the inadequacies in their service to the resident. They acknowledged the need for significant improvements in their communication process and accepted the Ombudsman’s recommendations with humility. The senior management team conducted a thorough review of the case, and the Chief Customer Officer personally reached out to the family to address the situation.
“We continue to make improvements to how we record and act on the vulnerability of our residents, and we have reviewed our automated letter process to ensure an appropriate response is issued in line with our vulnerability support policy. Our tenancy sustainment and welfare team, who worked with the resident alongside external agencies, also offers advice to our residents and signposts to extra support when required.
“We have also amended our management transfer policy so that it includes a broader consideration of risk that better takes into account exceptional circumstances.”