Learning Disability Today
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Council ordered to pay resident nearly £13,000 after failing to install disability adaptations

A council in Surrey has been ordered to pay almost £13,000 to a resident after it failed to provide necessary disability adaptations for 18 months.

The resident had requested various adaptations for his son, who has cerebral palsy. However, the landlord was slow to act, which meant the tenant ended up installing many of the adaptations himself.

The Housing Ombudsman, Richard Blakeway, said it was “unacceptable” that the landlord had failed to provide these “vital adaptations” in a timely manner.

Landlord failed to effectively communicate with resident

The Ombudsman accepted that the Covid-19 pandemic slowed down the application process, but said there were still “unreasonable delays and poor communication throughout”.

Indeed, it took the landlord of Waverley Borough Council five months just to confirm there was a need for specialist contractors and a further six months for the quotes to be obtained.

When the quotes were compiled, it was discovered that the cost of the works would be more than allowed in the landlord’s policy. The council therefore needed to explore other options first.

It then took a further two months for the landlord to undertake a site visit and another two months until the order for adaptations was placed.

Then, three months later, the landlord made a provisional booking for the work to take place. By this point, 18 months had passed and the resident had already begun making his own plans to install the adaptations himself.

“Unacceptable” delays

To cover the costs of the adaptations the tenant made, Waverley Borough Council was ordered to pay £13,000 to the resident. However, the landlord was allowed to offset some of the money using the resident’s rent account, as the tenant had withheld rent during the dispute.

The Housing Ombudsman said: “Whilst not technically classified as urgent works, clearly they were clearly immensely important to the family and should not have been unreasonably delayed to the extent that they were.

“These delays were compounded by the resident then sometimes being ignored. This was unacceptable during a period of time that the resident was trying to get vital adaptations for his son completed.

“I welcome the learning the landlord has taken from this case and urge other landlords to look at this case for lessons on how to deal with disability adaptations and the sensitivities in doing so.”

Ombudsman ordered the landlord to undertake a thorough review of its approach to disabled adaptations

Waverley Borough Council has apologised and accepted that there were “unreasonable delays” in dealing with the application. The council has also acknowledged that it should have communicated better with the family.

A spokesperson said: “The Council has learned valuable lessons from this case, and as requested by the Ombudsman, we are in the process of carrying out a comprehensive review of our policies and procedures around processing requests from our residents for disabled aids and adaptations to establish why, on this occasion, we did not meet our usual standards and to identify and make improvements to prevent errors occurring in the future.”

Waverley Borough Council has laid out a number of steps it will now take to ensure the same mistakes do not happen again. It will:

  • Put in place a clear and robust communications plan to ensure that tenants are kept regularly updated on the progress of their application for aids and adaptations
  • Make sure that all relevant staff have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the Aids and Adaptations policy and procedure
  • Create a user-friendly tracker for monitoring live cases
  • Keep resource needs under continuous review so that it can deliver a high standard of service.

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