By guest writer and tenant Angela Carlton
Clarion seems to have a serious problem with its complaints procedure. The information reported to SHAC shows that it falls well below the standards acceptable and what might be expected of such a large and well-resourced organisation.
While no-one would expect 100% perfection, especially for such a large landlord, the complaints seem far too numerous to be explained away as ‘occasional failures’. There are no less than three Facebook pages dedicated to sharing horror stories about the landlord.
For example, one tenant explained:
I made a complaint to the Director about the behaviour of a member of staff. He actually sent the complaint to the person I was complaining about and left it with them!
One tenant had a new bath put in but ended up having to make a complaint about the work because the contractor hired to do the job flooded the bathroom. The tenant was told that the person carrying out the work was a carpenter not a plumber. The remedy offered by Clarion would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic: they gave the tenant a dehumidifier!
Another tenant described being harassed and attempting to raise a complaint about anti-social and physically threatening behaviour.
“I am banging my head against a brick wall … I have called them multiple times only to be told that customer services would contact me. That was seven weeks ago.“
Apparently even a serious situation is not worthy of urgency. It also seems to be getting harder to make a complaint. Tenants are referred to the general email address or told use the call centre number, and struggle to get through.
You ask yourself would whether a board member would tolerate these problems in their own home.
Introducing Gavin Barwell – Member of the Clarion Board
Gavin Barwell was appointed to the Clarion board in December 2019.
Barwell was Minister for Housing between July 2016 and May 2017, having previously been MP for Croydon Central. His time in office covered the Grenfell fire on 14 June 2017, leading to almost 80 deaths and an untold number of individual tragedies.
The experiences of Clarion tenants are being mirrored across the sector and it’s giving housing associations a bad name.
Finding a Voice and Finding a Solution
If the internal complaints procedure doesn’t work, tenants should be able to get support from external bodies, but this doesn’t seem to work either. Tenants find it difficult to meet the very high thresholds for getting an issue taken up. And even where the Regulator of Social Housing or the Housing Ombudsman find against an association, they powerless to enforce any action.
Citizens Advice and similar services were overloaded, even before the pandemic. Not surprisingly, tenants are turning to the law in the hope that this will help. With access to Legal Aid severely restricted, hyper-exploitative ‘No Win, No Fee’ lawyers are the only option. Getting redress this way can be a long-winded – sometimes taking years – and stressful. While a victory may mean that the complaint is finally addressed and the tenant adequately compensated, it doesn’t bring about a systemic change in the way the landlord operates.
There are plenty of organisations speaking for tenants, but what tenants actually need is an organisation with enforcement powers, similar to those of the Health and Safety Executive or the Fire Brigade.
There must be meaningful penalties. The board and executive must be held accountable. Unless this happens, the misery and distress of thousands of tenants will carry on being replicated.
SHAC@Clarion is campaigning for improved complaints handling, amongst other demands. If you are a Clarion tenant, please sign up.
- Register here for SHAC@Clarion
- See our SHAC@Clarion home page.
3rd November 2020