Westminster Council housing

Westminster Council has been found responsible for ‘severe maladministration’ after a mother and baby were left in a mouldy flat for over two years.

A scathing report by the Housing Ombudsman concluded that the council had failed to act swiftly enough in both fixing the issues, and handling the resident’s complaint, and awarded the family £2300 in compensation.

The woman, who is not named in the report, first reported damp and mould in the 1960s bedsit in September 2019. The council did not acknowledge the complaint until February 2021, blaming an ‘increased workload and backlog in cases’.

Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1995 landlords, including councils, are responsible for carrying out structural repairs within a ‘reasonable period of time’. Landlords also have a duty towards vulnerable tenants including young children, the report said.

Despite considering whether to move the mother and baby to another property, the council refused to relocate the family without further inspections.

The flat was found to have ongoing leak issues with damage in the kitchen, hallway and bathroom.

In addition to the fine, the ombudsman has asked Westminster Council to conduct a senior management review, including its communication and handling of vulnerable residents, as well as to consider whether a further payout may be due for the delayed works. The council is required to submit the results of the inquiry, along with details of any steps taken to prevent further failings in the future.

Around 450,000 homes in England are believed to have issues relating to mould and condensation. One of the most high profile cases was the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak due to exposure to black mould at his home in Rochdale. Last month, the ombudsman found that the housing association guilty of dismissing residents’ concerns.

Officials from Westminster Council first visited the bedsit six days after being alerted of the situation on September 11 2019. A month later the resident sent a Letter of Claim through her solicitor saying that there was damp throughout the home. This was later confirmed by an independent survey in June 2021.

The ombudsman report noted that there was some difficulty gaining access to the property, however it concluded that there had still been excessive delays on the part of the council. As of January 2022, the council said that remedial works were still outstanding and no dates had been confirmed.

Image: Steve Cadman/Wikimedia Commons.

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