Stevenage Borough Council failed to fix a disabled resident's faulty door entry system for 18 months, leaving ambulances unable to access the flat on multiple occasions.

The issue - revealed in a Housing Ombudsman report - meant that, on three separate occasions, the fire brigade had to accompany ambulances to enable them to get to the resident during "critical health emergencies".

On other occasions, ambulance staff "were only able to enter the block as another resident was leaving the property", and even had to call the resident so he could come down from his fifth-floor flat and let them in himself.

The resident was "extremely distressed" by the experience, and felt that he was treated as if "his life did not matter". Given his dissatisfaction with SBC's handling of the issue, he took his complaint to the Housing Ombudsman.

He had moved into the SBC-owned flat in July 2019, with access to the block being via an intercom system that residents could communicate with using handsets.

The resident's handset did not work, and SBC has acknowledged that it was already aware of the problem prior to him moving in. The issue meant that the resident could not allow access to the emergency services or any visitors. The resident's "significant health concerns and disabilities" were noted on file and mentioned in correspondence with SBC.

The issue was only fixed in January 2021, after the resident had engaged the services of a solicitor.


He received no apology for the length of time it had taken for the problem to be resolved. SBC did not dispute the resident's account that he had raised the issue "several times" with his housing officer during the tenancy.

At the time, SBC offered £658 in compensation as a "gesture of goodwill only", and stated that "there was no evidence of the claimed risk to the resident's life".

The resident refused the offer and said that he wanted an apology and compensation "for his distress and the potentially life-threatening impact on his health".

The council refused to escalate his complaint further, "on the basis that this offer of compensation had been made and had resolved the complaint, despite the resident remaining dissatisfied".

The resident told the Ombudsman that he had asked SBC whether he could fit a new handset himself, using technical knowledge gained during a previous job. He said that SBC "refused this and advised him he would be in breach of his tenancy".

In a letter to the resident, SBC "disputed that the lack of repair was a failing", and stated that the resident was aware that repair was not possible "as the system was obsolete".

They were eventually able to fix the issue "by taking a used handset from a void property on the block" to replace the dysfunctional one.

The Ombudsman found "severe maladministration" on the part of Stevenage Borough Council (SBC), and said there is "no indication" that the council "considered the resident's disabilities or its obligations under the Equality Act 2010".

They said it was "a significant failing" for SBC to leave the resident without any means to allow access to his property for visitors and the emergency services for 18 months.

The Ombudsman concluded that the £658 offer "was an insufficient remedy", and ordered the council to apologise to the resident, pay him £1,250 as compensation, and create an action plan to prevent similar failings in future.

The council helped the resident move to alternative accommodation in January 2022.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “This investigation shows how what on paper was a routine repair had significant and avoidable impact on a resident because the landlord failed to consider his disability.

“These failings meant for 18 months vital emergency service help which could save the resident’s life was impeded without fire brigade’s intervention.

“While the formal complaints procedure did result in the outstanding repair being made, the landlord failed to recognise the impact and anxiety caused to the resident and did not offer an apology."

Responding to the report, a spokesperson for Stevenage Borough Council stated: "We always aim to work collaboratively with our tenants and once issues are reported to resolve these as efficiently and effectively as possible.

"Sadly, on this occasion, it would appear that this resident hasn’t received an adequate service, for which we sincerely apologise.

"We acknowledge that this case was not dealt with in the appropriate manner and would like to reiterate that the safety of our tenants is of paramount importance to us.

"Throughout this process, we have taken on board the learnings which have resulted in the implementation of new procedures and changes to our processes to ensure this situation does not occur again."

The spokesperson said that SBC have "improved the process for handling Housing complaints" and "introduced a team of dedicated strategic complaint managers".