In the third report in the Housing Ombudsman's new series of
"Spotlight" reports, the Housing Ombudsman shares the
learning from complaints and provides best practice recommendations
to help landlords improve their services and complaint
The report, "Cold Comfort: Spotlight on complaints about
heating, hot water and energy in social housing" is
focused on complaints about heating and hot water, identifying
unnecessary delays in resolving issues, together with landlords'
management of contractors as particular issues of concern. The
report highlights the serious impact these complaints can have on
residents, especially when dealing with vulnerable households.
The report and findings are based on more than 200 cases
investigated by the Housing Ombudsman over an 18-month period from
April 2019. It includes complaints about heat networks, gas
servicing and energy efficiency to support decarbonisation. The
highest number of complaints investigated concerned general heating
and hot water issues, but there was a disproportionately high
number of maladministration findings in the cases which
involved heat networks - or district heating - and complaint
handling. The review shows:
- Maladministration in 31 per cent of cases, increasing to
38 per cent for complaints about gas safety investigations, 60 per
cent for complaints about heat networks and 60 per cent for those
involving complaint handling.
- 158 orders have been made to put things rights, including 108
orders to pay compensation totalling £58,486.
The report makes 40 recommendations to landlords to improve
- Putting things 'right first time', particularly where
contractors are involved through effective management of
- Providing clear information for residents at the start of
the tenancy or lease on properties with heat networks,
and again if the arrangements change.
- Planning gas safety inspections well ahead of the due date to
allow for appointments to be made at a convenient time for
residents and avoid missing renewal dates.
The real-life experiences of ten residents are featured. In one,
an 89-year-old man was left without heating and hot water for five
weeks when his boiler broke down. The landlord failed to
acknowledge the extent of its failure in handling the repairs and
offered compensation which was not proportionate to the
resident's vulnerability and length of time he was left without hot
water or adequate heating.
Another case involved a communal biomass boiler system in flats
with many elderly or disabled residents. The boiler repeatedly
broke down and the fuel supply ran out causing distress and
discomfort to residents. The landlord had a long-term agreement
with a contractor for the system, but it had no penalty clauses and
there was no performance monitoring.
Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway highlighted the report in his
presentation to the ARCH Tenant Group on 1 March 2021 saying that
he hoped landlords will use this learning to improve their services
and complaint handling.
Following on from the publication of this report, the Housing
Ombudsman Service is hosting a series of webinars. These are
interactive sessions to discuss key issues and ask questions on the
findings of the report and provide an opportunity to gain better
insight to help landlords make improvements to resolving heating
and hot water issues.
The webinars will be held:
- Tuesday 9 March 11am-12:30pm
- Wednesday 17 March 1am-12:30pm
- Thursday 29 April 2pm -3:30pm
- Tuesday 18 May 11am-12:30pm
- Wednesday 16 June 11am -12:30pm
Details of how to register for these webinars can be found on
the Housing Ombudsman's website.