Exclusive: Damning report finds L&Q housing association tried to silence tenants

An investigation into L&Q homes, the UK’s second biggest housing association, has found systemic failings and a “constant cycle of inadequate action”, with concerns raised over its treatment of disabled and vulnerable tenants.

A heavily critical report by the Housing Ombudsman for England, seen exclusively by ITV News, found L&Q was "unduly heavy handed" in dealing with some complaints.

The inquiry found L&Q withheld compensation from a tenant unless they signed a confidentiality agreement, and in another case bosses were concerned residents would contact ITV News if they didn't move quicker to deal with an ongoing complaint.

“The landlord missed opportunities at every stage of investigating resident concerns, whether that be investigations into anti-social behaviour, disrepair, complaints or when the Ombudsman asks the landlord to put things right,” says Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway in the report.

“While the landlord took action, there is no evidence of the landlord understanding why things were going wrong and taking decisive action to address the failings."

ITV News met Junior, an L&Q tenant, whose breathing equipment was covered in mould

L&Q is the second biggest housing association in the UK, housing 250,000 tenants across England with annual turnover over £1.1 billion.

The Housing Ombudsman launched a special inquiry into the social landlord after receiving a significant number of complaints. The cases spanned 30 local authority areas. 

In one case of particular concern to the Ombudsman, L&Q appeared to try and silence a resident who was entitled to compensation, telling them they would only pay  “if they agreed to the addition of a confidentiality clause in their tenancy agreement."

“The terms of any proposals to refund service charges and any admissions of liability are confidential,” the tenant was told by L&Q.

The Ombudsman said that was "entirely contrary to the ethos of openness and transparency”, telling the landlord “it cannot compel the resident to accept its proposed variation agreement or withhold due compensation and its significant failings compromised the resident’s rights.”

The report shows L&Q were concerned about its tenants contacting ITV, after ITV News had a ran reports on squalid conditions in properties it owns, including by a disabled tenant.

While dealing with an ongoing complaint by a tenant experiencing leaks, damp and mould, extracts of an internal email seen by ITV News reads: 

"...as you can imagine the resident is beyond frustrated with having to chase for information and need things to move quickly. Is there any chance we can decant [the resident], whilst we investigate this, as it is affecting his health and it won’t be too long until we are on ITV again.” 

In May 2021 ITV News exposed appalling conditions experienced by a disabled tenant in an L&Q property in south London.

Junior Jimoh, who needs 24-hour care, was living in a flat with such chronic damp that mould was growing on the ventilation equipment that helped him breathe.

L&Q apologised to Junior after the report aired and agreed to re-house Junior.

In March 2022, ITV News met another L&Q tenant living in squalid conditions in a property in Epsom. Despite numerous complaints by Louise Phillips, including to L&Q’s chief executive, her home had been destroyed by leaks, with a gaping hole in her kitchen ceiling and a sinking bathroom floor.

L&Q again apologised to Louise and ordered repairs.

The Ombudsman's special report raises particular worries about L&Q's treatment of tenants with disabilities.

"Of profound concern is the landlord’s handling of additional needs, including disabilities and mental health. This was often wholly inadequate, and the evidence strongly indicates that this aggravated the distress and inconvenience experienced by some of its most vulnerable residents."

The Ombudsman found L&Q guilty of severe maladministration in 13.4% of cases, double the national average for a social landlord. It also ordered them to pay more than £140,000 in compensation to residents, and made 493 orders and recommendations.

Responding to the report, L&Q’s Group Chief Executive, Fiona Fletcher-Smith said: 

"We recognise that we’ve got things wrong, and we welcome this extremely valuable learning process. My senior leadership colleagues and I are personally contacting the residents whose complaints the Ombudsman judged to have involved service failure or maladministration on our part. 

"We have apologised for the completely unacceptable service they have received. L&Q has let them down, and I’m truly sorry for that. 

"What really matters to us is putting things right for residents and using the report’s learnings to correct historic failings, continue building a resident-centred culture, and ensure we deliver a quality service every time. The Ombudsman’s investigation draws conclusions from complaints made between March 2019 and October 2022 - a period when our services were severely disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

"As the Ombudsman has recognised, when I became Chief Executive in 2021, the Board and I put in place a new five-year improvement and investment strategy to tackle the problems that had emerged. This was developed through listening to residents, and resolutely focused on the safety and quality of existing homes and services. 

"I’m pleased the Ombudsman has endorsed these plans, and I welcome both residents’ and the Ombudsman’s input on how we can further strengthen, accelerate and embed the positive changes we’re making."

If you are stuck in poor housing, or are facing eviction by your landlord, and would like to share your story with Daniel and our housing investigations team, please get in touch with: housingstories@itv.com