Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 07 Oct 2019
Summary: Ms X complains the Council miscalculated her housing benefit and council tax entitlement, leading to her eviction by her private landlord. She also says that the Council failed in its duty to house her, causing her and her family distress.
The Ombudsman upheld the complaint finding fault causing injustice.
The Council has agreed to apologise for the distress caused. At our request, the Council has contacted Ms X to take a homelessness application. It should continue to do what it can to help in finding suitable housing for her and her family.
The Council will also pay:
- £1,000 for the distress caused by denying her chance to appeal its housing benefit decision in October 2017, its initial miscalculation and for, without authority, informing her landlord that she was over £8,000 in debt with the Council;
- £1,300 to recognise she was in unsuitable accommodation from the end of November 2017 to the end of May 2018, while she was actively seeking help from the Council or while the Council should have kept her case open; and
- £500 for storage costs she incurred when she had to leave her rented property. Or, if Ms X can provide receipts for storage costs and for any furniture or possessions she had to dispose of, reimburse her for any loss she can evidence.
If Ms X still wants to submit her case to the tribunal, the Council should submit her application immediately.
Within three months of the date of this report, the Council should:
- review this case to investigate why it made calculation errors. It should report its detailed findings to us. If Ms X wants to submit her case to the tribunal, the Council’s submissions to the tribunal (providing they include sufficient detail) may stand as a response to this recommendation; and
- audit cases where it calculated overpayments and applied the two-child restriction, between July 2017 and March 2018 and report its findings to us. Where mistakes were made, it should correct those mistakes. If the audit reveals the Council calculated incorrectly in a majority of cases, it should complete a further review of all cases during that period or consider what other steps it should take to detect and remedy any systemic fault. The Council should inform us of any steps it has taken and explain why it considers its actions are proportionate and appropriate.