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January 16, 2023

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Ombudsman finds ‘cumulative failures’ in fire door safety by London housing association

A London-based housing association has been fined and sanctioned by the Housing Ombudsman after delays with supplying fire door information.

The Ombudsman made a ‘severe maladministration’ finding for Wandle Housing Association after it failed to confirm whether the doors in a resident’s flat were fire-rated or needed replacing.

FireDoor-StephenDavies-AlamyStock-22A South London resident first requested confirmation that all the doors were fire doors upon moving in following a mutual exchange. However, four visits later over a period of nine months and the landlord still had not clarified, prompting the resident to send another letter seeking confirmation. Feeling this was a fire safety issue, the resident also voiced concerns about the front door missing a fire strip and not fitting the frame, as reported by the Ombudsman.

However, subsequent visits from the landlord “still did not establish whether or not the doors in the property were fire doors” and the resident wanted to know whether the landlord had responsibility for fixing the faulty doors she had previously raised concerns about.

The Ombudsman noted that at the end of the process, 18 months after the resident had first moved in, the landlord had still not replaced the front door.

Following an investigation, the Ombudsman concluded that while the landlord rectified the matter by arranging a door survey, “there was a delay in addressing the fire safety issue raised by the resident – a fundamental area of the landlord’s responsibilities”. They also added that the missing kitchen door “should have been picked up” by the landlord.

These were deemed ‘cumulative failures’ by the Ombudsman as it meant the fire safety issues in the resident’s home went unaddressed for a ‘significant period’.

“Several missed opportunities”

After the findings, the landlord’s learning included reviewing both its mutual exchange policy and its complaint handling process, as well as making it easier for staff to identify when a resident has a vulnerability.

The landlord was subject to two Complaint Handling Failure Orders in the latest quarterly report covering July to September 2022.

Richard Blakeway from the Housing Ombudsman, said: “Given the intense focus on building safety following the tragic events at Grenfell, it is deeply concerning and unacceptable that the resident had to go to extraordinary lengths to resolve the issues with the fire doors.

“There were several missed opportunities in this case. While the landlord rectified the matter by arranging a door survey, there was a delay in a fundamental area of the landlord’s responsibilities.

“The landlord should also have been aware that the kitchen door, which was supposed to be a fire door, was missing. It would be expected that the landlord would have undertaken an inspection of the property at the time of the mutual exchange applications, as standard good practice, if not part of its mutual exchange procedures.

“Not only was the landlord potentially remiss in relation to its duties in relation to fire safety but the resident was put to the trouble, inconvenience, and stress of pursuing the issue.

“I would also expect the landlord to ensure that it reassured the resident by providing a clear explanation of its decisions or took steps to carry out fire safety checks. It was also concerning the landlord did not account for the resident’s vulnerabilities during the complaints process.”

The landlord was ordered to pay £700 in compensation and to ensure that works and repairs noted as being needed in the last survey were completed.

In response, Wandle Housing Association said: “We’re deeply sorry that our service to this resident didn’t meet the standard we strive to deliver, and thank the Housing Ombudsman for allowing us to learn from this case.

“We have apologised unreservedly to the tenant affected, and have fully complied with the orders, and have reviewed policies and procedures to prevent something like this from happening again”.


This article was first published on the Housing Ombudsman’s Service website. 

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