Michael Gove tells landlord L&Q: ‘You have failed your residents’

Michael Gove tells landlord L&Q: ‘You have failed your residents’

Social housing landlord ordered to pay tenants compensation after findings of severe maladministration

The secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities has called the chief executive of L&Q to a meeting after the housing ombudsman ordered the landlord to pay tenants more than £140,000 in compensation after a special investigation revealed it was “dismissive” of tenants and found “severe maladministration”, including in tackling disrepair and antisocial behaviour.

Some of L&Q’s 250,000 residents have complained of living with mould, leaks and cockroaches. The ombudsman found L&Q had told one resident it would pay compensation if they signed a confidentiality agreement, and that responses to complaints had been “dismissive, heavy-handed and lacking respect”.

In a letter to Fiona Fletcher-Smith, the chief executive of the association, which operates more than 107,000 homes in England, Gove said he was “deeply shocked and disappointed” to discover the landlord’s failings had caused residents “unacceptable” and “prolonged periods of distress”.

“This is unacceptable,” he said. “You have stopped listening to your residents’ voices, and failed to deliver the service that they should expect … in some cases you were described as having been ‘heavy handed’, ‘dismissive’ and even ‘callous’ and ‘confrontational’ … You must take immediate action to remedy these severe failings.”

Gove stepped in after the ombudsman, Richard Blakeway, ruled there had been maladministration and service failure in 197 cases raised by residents, with “severe maladministration” occurring at more than double the national rate. It ordered the landlord to make 42 apologies to residents for failures, and made a total of nearly 500 orders and recommendations.

Gove has previously rebuked Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, the landlord of two-year-old Awaab Ishak who died of respiratory problems after the social housing landlord failed to fix mould. L&Q is believed to be the largest organisation he has challenged so publicly to improve its standards.

Shelter, the housing charity, has said the level of social housing grants only cover a small percentage of the cost of building a social home.

“Providers must make up the shortfall with other funds,” it said in an analysis. “They borrow against future rental income [money otherwise earmarked for maintenance] and are forced to ‘cross-subsidise’ – to build and sell private homes to the highest bidder, pulling them dangerously off mission.”

L&Q, founded in 1963, has an annual turnover of £1.1bn and recorded a surplus in 2022 of £154m. Approximately 250,000 people live in its properties, which are mostly located in London, the south-east and the north west of England.

L&Q declined to comment on Gove’s intervention. Responding to the ombudsman’s report, Fletcher-Smith said: “We recognise that we’ve got things wrong … My senior leadership colleagues and I are personally contacting the residents whose complaints the ombudsman judged to have involved service failure or maladministration on our part. We have apologised for the completely unacceptable service they have received. L&Q has let them down, and I’m truly sorry for that.”

She said the landlord was tackling the issues highlighted, including investing £3bn in a “major works investment programme”.

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