Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 07 Apr 2017
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complained about the Council’s refusal to accept liability for flooding damage to his home. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. It was reasonable for Mr X to seek a remedy in the small claims court.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, complains about the Council’s refusal to accept liability for flooding to his home following heavy rain. He says the drains were poorly maintained and his home was flooded as a result. The damage to his home has cost over £5,000 to repair.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered all the information which Mr X submitted with his complaint. I have also considered the Council’s response and Mr X has been given the opportunity to comment on the draft decision.
What I found
- Mr X says his home was flooded following heavy rain in August 2016. He says the highway drains outside were blocked with debris and this resulted in the water entering his home. He had recently decorated his property and says the damage was over £5,000.
- Mr X made a claim against the Council which it passed to its insurers. The insurers rejected his claim. They said there is no evidence that the drains were blocked before the heavy rain. The rain may have caused this to happen and it sent a team to clear the drains following Mr X’s report of flooding. The Council denies any liability for the damage.
- The legislation from which the Ombudsman takes his powers also places some restrictions on what he may investigate. One of these restrictions concerns complaints about liability for damage to property or personal injury resulting from claims of negligence against councils. These are legal matters and the Ombudsman cannot determine liability for negligence. Only insurers or the courts can do this.
- Mr X’s insurance claim was rejected and so he must consider taking the matter to the small claims court.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. It was reasonable for Mr X to seek a remedy in the small claims court.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman