‘Don’t suffer in silence’ says Bognor Regis council house tenant

Don’t suffer in silence is the message from a Bognor Regis man who has had complaints against his landlord upheld by the Housing Ombudsman.

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 2:59 pm

Anthony Whiffin moved into his Laurel Grove home in May 2018 to find a list of repairs needed to be made.

One of the Housing Ombudsman’s adjudications from November 2019 related to asbestos in a flaking bedroom ceiling artex, which Mr Whiffin complained about in June and then made a formal complaint in August when no action was taken to resolve it.

The ombudsman found a service failure in the handling of the complainant’s reports and Arun’s complaints handling.

Arun District Council's headquarters

The report said the council failed to respond to the initial complaints which was a ‘significant service failure given the matter complained about and understandable worry the situation caused the complainant’.

Arun was ordered to apologise, pay £500 compensation, review what went wrong and take steps to ensure similar complaints were responded to in line with the complaints procedure.

Another report of May 2020 related to repairs to ten kitchen units which already had a work order from Arun when Mr Whiffin moved in.

The ombudsman’s report said Arun closed the work order without telling Mr Whiffin.

A kitchen unit then fell off months later smashing a cooker power socket and extractor fan hood and there was no response to Mr Whiffin’s report.

The ombudsman said the council should have made efforts to complete the required inspection before closing the work order.

There was no evidence the cooker switch had been properly assessed before Arun deciding it was not an emergency repair.

Arun was ordered to pay £153 compensation and told to train staff.

Another ombudsman report from April this year relates to further repairs and the council’s complaints handling and communication.

Arun was ordered to pay £200 for its poor communication about a delay to work and £75 for its handling of the complaint.

Mr Whiffin said: “Over the last couple of years, I have had an endless battle with Arun to improve their service to their customers. There seems to be a deep-rooted problem of ADC failing to admit and put right failings in the service they provide to their tenants.

“These are my personal experiences with ADC. However, on speaking to other council tenants they all seem to have the same terrible experiences,” he said.

“I believe it is a matter the wider area should be aware of and whether other tenants of ADC are suffering in silence and urge them to hold ADC to account.”

He said Arun was the 17th worst housing authority in the country and second worst housing authority outside of London of more than 320 housing authorities for housing ombudsman determination complaint orders.

He has written to council leader Shaun Gunner stating:”I take no pleasure constantly having to hold ADC to account for washing their hands of any responsibility and could think of far better things to do with my time.

“I seriously hope for the day I contact ADC, and everything goes as it should, of course any reasonable person would expect some problems. However not practically every time you contact ADC and, in some cases as you will find in the attached determinations, exposing my family to the deadly substance asbestos.”

A spokesperson for Arun said: “The council is aware of the issues raised by Mr Whiffin, to the Housing Ombudsman. We have been working with Mr Whiffin to complete the outstanding repairs and continue to improve our processes.

“In respect of the data Mr Whiffin refers to, this includes the total number of social rented homes in the district. Those owned and managed by housing associations are included as well as those of the council.”