By Gavin Mackintosh-
Croydon Council has been found in breach of its duties as a landlord over the appalling conditions of flats in residential blocks in South Norwood.
The Regulator is expected to publish more information in relation to the breach next week.
The decision by the RSH came after it was made aware of a media report by ITV News last month, which showed the living conditions of tenants in the Regina Road Estate in South Norwood.
The report also highlighted significant leaks, damp and mould issues, as well as concerns about resident safety.
The council at the time self-referred itself to the regulator.
Croydon last month appointed an interim executive director for housing to co-ordinate widespread improvements to how council residents are listened to and looked after.
Dr Alison Knight was previously Executive Director – Neighbourhoods at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council in the West Midlands between 2017 and 2020.
There she led on a major improvement programme for 27,000 council homes, delivered 600 new homes and introduced performance measures and a culture change programme that achieved high customer satisfaction levels on repairs.
The regulatory findings today makes Croydon Council the second social landlord to have breached the RSH’s Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard-ranking high among other incompetent councils.
Other councils found in breach includes Gateshead, Runnymede, South Kevesten and Lambeth councils also found to have breached the standard.
They also include East Kent Housing, the former shared ALMO for Canterbury, Thanet, Folkestone & Hythe and Dover councils, also breached the Home Standard in 2019
The council’s reputation took a bit hit after an ITV report highlighted the appalling living conditions of three households in the block and included images of walls turned completely black by mould and showed residents living with sodden carpets due to heavy leaks.
The residents featured in the report said they had been complaining to the Labour-run Croydon Council about the issues for over a year, with no meaningful solution ever offered.
A subsequent independent report carried out by Ark Consultancy found that Croydon Council had “failed to deliver basic housing services” and concluded that its housing department had “a lack of care and respect for residents”.
Widespread And Longstanding Failures
The regulator’s report said that this evidence, along with engagement with the council, showed the issues that arose were the result of widespread and longstanding failures by the council in relation to its repairs and maintenance service.
The RSH said: “Taking into account the issues present at the Croydon tower block, and the wider evidence about how Croydon has managed its housing stock and engaged with tenants, the regulator has concluded that Croydon has breached the Home Standard and the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard.”
Repairs Service Failure
The report also found that the council had failed to provide an effective repairs service to its tenants, and there was a lack of assurance that the local authority had an effective system in place to show it was meeting health and safety obligations.
As a result of these failures, residents were living in “unsafe and uninhabitable” living conditions, and other council tenants were at risk of experiencing the same conditions, the regulator said.
The report added that Croydon Council has demonstrated that it is now taking actions to improve its services to residents and that it would continue to monitor the situation to ensure it mitigates the risks for tenants. However, the RSH did not rule out further regulatory action if it is necessary.
The Tenant and Empowerment Standard, which judges landlords on their performance in responding to residents’ concerns, has been breached far fewer times, with the first being lease-based provider Westmoreland in 2019.
In 2017, the director at the regulator said that it was a “very high threshold” for a landlord to be found in breach.
This standard was later strengthened in same year, with the regulator including a requirement on landlords to engage effectively with tenants and ensure they listened to feedback.
Residents in three tower blocks on Regina Road have been suffering from leaks, damp, mould and dangerous electrical wiring, with complaints to the council and its contractors, Axis, for the past four years.
The report was commissioned after the appalling conditions were exposed in a series of news reports on ITV. Councillor officials had promised to deal with the situation that had made the homes of residents barely habitable, but Croydon Council’s top chiefs have been so hopelessly disorientated that matters only ever got worse.
Several highly placed officials in the council resigned one by one, leaving the council with no real direction or substance for its constituents. The council fell to its lowest of lows.
Today, the Regulator confirmed that action was being taken against the council, but they said that they would not be commenting until they issue the formal, public notice.
Action against the bankrupt and incompetent Croydon Council has long been in the waiting after years of irresponsible behaviour by its top councillors.
The council recently took on a CEO with questionable credentials, but there is little hope of change anytime soon.
Croydon last month appointed an interim executive director for housing to co-ordinate widespread improvements to how council residents are listened to and looked after- Dr Alison Knight
Ms Knight was previously Executive Director – Neighbourhoods at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council in the West Midlands between 2017 and 2020.
However, when the council reconvene next week, the incumbent, Katherine Kerswell, who has a controversial past, will be a candidate competing for the almost £200,000 a year job.