England’s largest housing association accused by Gove of failing tenants

Michael Gove said Clarion Housing Group had ‘failed its tenants and refused to treat people with respect’.

Jemma Crew
Thursday 01 December 2022 16:43 GMT
Michael Gove said Clarion Housing Group had ‘failed its tenants and refused to treat people with respect’ (Tim Goode/PA)
Michael Gove said Clarion Housing Group had ‘failed its tenants and refused to treat people with respect’ (Tim Goode/PA)

A housing association which has received a string of severe maladministration notices has been accused by the Housing Secretary of “once again” failing its tenants.

Michael Gove said Clarion Housing Group had “failed its tenants and refused to treat people with respect” after a man trying to secure a new tenancy was left without a stable home for two years.

His struggle was highlighted in a report by the Housing Ombudsman, which made a finding of severe maladministration over failings in handling the resident’s request to be removed from his existing tenancy.

It is the fourth such notice this year against Clarion – the country’s largest housing association.

Mr Gove said he has summoned Clarion’s executives to provide an explanation for the “repeated failures”.

He said: “Just two weeks ago I wrote to Clarion dismayed at yet another severe maladministration notice on repairs and complaints.

“Once again, Clarion has failed its tenants and refused to treat people with respect.

“This must end. After four maladministration notices in one year, I am now considering appropriate action.”

A spokesman for the group said it had noted Mr Gove’s comments and is “looking forward to meeting him and discussing how we can work together to tackle the housing crisis”.

Once again, Clarion has failed its tenants and refused to treat people with respect. This must end. After four maladministration notices in one year, I am now considering appropriate action

Michael Gove

In the latest case, the resident asked to be removed from the joint tenancy he shared with his former partner as they were separating.

The landlord said he could not be removed as there were rent arrears, but despite the resident paying these in full within a week his name remained on the tenancy, the Ombudsman report said.

It said he complained, informing the landlord he was unable to start a new tenancy while the joint tenancy still existed.

The Ombudsman said the “excessive delay” removing him from the agreement meant he had to stay with relatives for two years.

Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway said: “There were a number of failings by the landlord in this case which had a significant impact on the resident.

“He was put to additional time and effort in pursuing the complaint, which prolonged the stress and inconvenience waiting for his tenancy issue to be resolved.

“The landlord engaged extensively with the Ombudsman during this year and used our decisions to help identify areas for service improvement.

Action is still required by the landlord to achieve a positive complaint handling culture.”

The Ombudsman has ordered the landlord to remove the resident from the tenancy, pay £1,000 compensation and review its policy on tenancy charges, provide staff training and review its record keeping.

It follows a finding of severe maladministration in July over cumulative failings in handling repairs to resolve a leak and the problems that followed.

In May, the Ombudsman identified “significant failings” over how Clarion responded to a complaint from a vulnerable tenant who went for months without water and had problems with damp, mould and rodents.

The month prior, the Ombudsman criticised the group for its “repeated failure” to respond to another resident’s complaints after she reported a leaking roof, damp, mould and cracks to the interior of her property.

Responding to the latest Ombudsman report, a Clarion spokesman said: “We are extremely sorry for how this case was managed.

“Our resident had every right to be removed from the tenancy and we failed to manage the process appropriately.

“We will of course comply with the judgement from the Housing Ombudsman and are determined the right lessons are learned.”

The spokesman said a number of changes have been made since 2020, when the mistakes were made, including a new process to ensure residents are contacted within 48 hours, further training for staff and new systems to improve how customers’ needs are considered.

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