According to the Housing Ombudsman’s report, the 83-year-old woman lived without heating or a hot water supply for nearly three years. She was forced to wash using a kettle for hot water.
The landlord, Woking Borough Council was first alerted to the issue by the resident, identified as Ms J, in September 2017.
In 2017, Mrs J reported having no heating or hot water at her property.
An engineer visited the property but was unable to gain access to fix the issue.
Six weeks later, the landlord forced entry to the property and capped the gas supply.
An investigation by the Housing Ombudsman found no evidence of any further action by the landlord until a year later.
In September 2018 an engineer made an annual gas safety check visit but there was no attempt to investigate what repairs might be needed.
Ms J refused access for the following two annual gas safety inspections in 2019 and 2020, meaning her gas supply remained cut off.
The ombudsman found several opportunities to try and resolve the matter were missed and there was “limited action” to check the resident’s welfare.
The Housing Ombudsman’s investigation found “severe maladministration”.
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As well as paying compensation, the ombudsman ordered Woking Borough Council to offer the resident alternative heating, plus a safe way to make hot food in the short term.
The council was also told to demonstrate to the ombudsman that it has a “robust plan in place” to repair the boiler and reinstate the gas supply.
Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway said: “These failings demonstrated a lack of regard to the landlord’s obligations, as well as a lack of concern for any health and safety risks.
“The lack of heating and hot water caused the resident severe distress and inconvenience. Her case reinforces our concerns about the significant impact of heating and hot water issues on residents.
“I welcome the landlord’s prompt actions following our decision and it is now crucial for it to learn lessons arising from our investigation.
“I would encourage other landlords to consider the learning this report offers for their own services.”
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Louise Strongitharm, WBC’s director of housing, said: “We are very sorry for any distress caused to the resident concerned. Whilst the access difficulties have been challenging for staff and contractors over an extended period, we should have acted more proactively in addressing the issues.
“Since receiving the Housing Ombudsman’s report, we have carried out all of the recommendations, including paying compensation, offering the resident alternative heating and cooking options, as well as providing a plan to repair the boiler and reinstate the gas supply to the property.
“We have also learnt from this case and made some immediate improvements, including reviewing and adapting our complaints procedure accordingly.
“We continue to work with and support the resident to find a permanent solution to their housing situation.”