Complaints Procedures, Housing Law, Onward, Service Cuts, Tenant & Resident Democracy

A Tenant’s Lament: January

A Typical Year in the Life of an Onward Tenant

In this series of articles, Michael Harrison describes in detail the unnecessary torments of life with a housing association landlord.

January 2022

The year began with the continuation of the farce which started on December 4th last year when the front door lock was changed to a push button lock – wholly inappropriate for the front door.

The problems were caused by poor information provided by Onward and the lack of common sense from Axis Europe plc.

Repairs on The Cheap

Matters wouldn’t have been so bad if there was a failure in the old lock, but it was working perfectly, as it had been doing for the last 20 years. A new lock that was supposed to be fitted on a door to the basement at the back of the building was mistakenly placed on the main access door at the front.

Why Axis Europe plc’s operative didn’t question it when arriving at the property is something I’ll never know. The fact that such an unusual job wasn’t questioned only goes to demonstrate the low level of skills that are obvious by the results of the work carried out by most sub-contractors.

Lower skilled operatives allow the contractor to pay lower wages, but they still charge the tenants the cost that would be paid for a higher skilled worker. No bid for a contract will do anything but stress the high quality of the work to be provided – although the contractor knows this will not be the case.

No Accountability is No Joke

Matters were made worse by the attitude of the Onward employee who sent out the job in the first place. She seemed to treat the whole matter as a joke and wasn’t in the least concerned about the inconvenience it was causing to the tenants – or the escalating costs of the whole affair.

We all make mistakes, that’s not the problem. It’s the way Onward seeks to resolve issues that arise due to those mistakes that causes the bigger problem. As I stated a number of times in my many emails to Onward, if I had made such a cock-up, I would be so ashamed that I would have done my utmost to rectify the situation as quickly as possible. In Onward there is little (or no) accountability, so shame doesn’t come into it.

Although Onward was informed of this bizarre piece of work on the very day it happened, I was told it was not possible for the removed lock to be returned (we never got a reason for that). I was then told that it would be weeks before a new lock could be provided.

The original incompetence on behalf of both Onward and Axis Europe plc was later compounded by broken promises (possibly lies) about the button lock being replaced with a normal one.

Constant Reminders

The ‘replacement’ took months and I’m sure that without my constant reminder emails, the situation would not have been resolved. There were a total of 95 emails related to this matter. So much for first time resolution.
The waste of time, effort and money caused by such a simple mistake and the total refusal of Onward to take responsibility and resolve the issue at the earliest opportunity was not unexpected.

The financial costs to Onward just indicate the profligacy of the organisation when it comes to tenants’ monies. The cost of the new (temporary and permanent) keys alone was more than £300.

But no problem for Onward executives – it’s not their money.

This led to the first official complaint of the year, Complaint Reference Number 11832468, taken to Stage 2, upheld with the offer of compensation (refused by me) demonstrating yet another example of how tenants’ monies are used to cover Onward employee and organisational failings.

I have come to learn that the Stage 1 process in Onward’s Complaints Process is merely the blocking stage. Issues only get addressed seriously if escalated to Stage 2.

Racking Up Unnecessary Costs

While Onward’s tenants and residents (sorry, ‘customers’) are having to struggle to meet the unnecessary costs of the landlord’s inefficient approach to maintaining our buildings, the same could not be said to be true for Onward as a corporation. In 2021 they held an operating surplus of £21 million.

The organisation has 13 staff earning above £100,000. The chief executive receives £207,617; around £20,000 of this amount is for pension contributions. That’s about twice as much as many social housing tenants and residents have to live on for a year. For people on such elevated salaries, a few extra thousand on the household budget might be easily absorbed. For us, every penny counts.

As the Daily Mail recently showed in their article Lavish Lifestyles of the Housing Fat Cats, the need to fight to end the inequality and lack of accountability within housing associations is pressing. SHAC aims to be part of the pressure to make that accountability real. Please join us.

7 February 2023

If you have a WordPress account, you can keep up to date with our blogs by subscribing to our site below:

Leave a Reply