Tenants and residents of Clarion Housing Group have taken to social media in droves to condemn their landlord for a lengthy shut down after a major ‘cyber security incident’ affected IT and telephone systems.
The already hard-to-reach landlord became even more difficult to contact from Friday 17th June. Email and telephone systems remain out of action a full week later.
One member told SHAC
I was alerted to the lines being down on Monday but assumed it was the usual Clarion incompetence. They didn’t explain themselves until yesterday [Thursday]. They were manning their Twitter account until midnight last night.”Jess, Clarion tenant
Clarion is as yet unable even to confirm whether the hack resulted in the theft of tenants’ and residents’ sensitive personal details or financial information.
Messages on the landlord’s website and social media platforms eventually announced that it was
Currently experiencing IT system issues, which means some of our emails, IT systems and phone lines are not working as normal. This disruption has been caused by a cyber security incident and we are working urgently with our cyber security partner to restore our systems as soon as we can.”Clarion Housing Group
Contact with the landlord is now restricted to booking emergency repairs, which Clarion defines as “anything that affects your health and safety, or an issue that could seriously damage your home if not dealt with quickly”.
Commentators on social media however point out that even prior to the hack, these emergencies were routinely ignored.
One resident quipped “Well, what classes as an emergency? Having no boiler for months didn’t”. Another said “I contacted them just after Christmas with many repairs ie. a big hole in the concrete floor by front door and a leaking roof to name two … still waiting”.
A Failing Business
The email sent to tenants and residents thanks them for their “patience and understanding”, but many SHAC Clarion members do not understand how such a wealthy organisation can so spectacularly fail to provide a basic, consistent standard of acceptable service. It does not seem a lot to ask. As for patience, that ran out long ago.
Clarion is a multi-million pound business and significant developer of new housing. It is Britain’s largest registered housing association, with 125,000 homes already under its care, housing 350,000 people. And it has plenty of cash at its disposal, with an operating surplus of £258 million according to the 2020/21 accounts.
In 2021, Clarion received £249.7 million in government grant to build 4,770 homes outside London. They also separately became the largest recipient of Greater London Authority housebuilding funds, receiving £24 million for London development (SHAC: Homes England’s Unaffordable Housing Programme).
Despite the wealth pouring into its coffers, 2021 was not a good year for Clarion.
In August, ITV News investigated “abysmal living conditions … collapsed ceilings, rats, mould and damp that dozens of residents were forced to live with for many years, despite complaining to their landlord Clarion“. The report detailed more than 500 outstanding repairs on the 500-home Eastfields Estate (ITV: Collapsed Ceilings, Mice and Mould).
Then in May 2022, the Housing Ombudsman announced a special investigation into the landlord after publishing two damning maladministration findings against them (Inside Housing: Clarion faces wider Housing Ombudsman probe).
Later the same month, Clarion was ‘put on notice’ by Housing Secretary Michael Gove in a highly critical open letter shared widely across the press (ITV: Clarion put on notice by ‘deeply disappointed’ Housing Secretary Michael Gove). Gove slammed Clarion for the poor condition of its housing and the length of time it was taking to put things right.
The most recent annual report claims that Clarion is a “resilient and robust business”. In the light of subsequent events, Clarion needs to think again. It is clear from this litany of disasters that both the board and executive have lost control of the organisation.
Tenants and Residents Organise
Failings at the landlord led tenants and residents to form SHAC@Clarion. The group was set up to campaign for better services and treatment and will continue to campaign until they have achieved lasting improvements. If you are a Clarion tenant or resident, please join us and get involved.
24 June 2022
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
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