West Oxfordshire District Council (19 021 079)

Category : Environment and regulation > Licensing

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 30 Oct 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complained the Council failed to adequately investigate his complaint about his neighbour, Ms F, who he said was operating an unlicensed dog boarding business. He said the anti-social behaviour by Ms F and the noise from her dogs caused him distress. I discontinued this investigation. This was because the housing association investigated the anti-social behaviour and noise and as a result it terminated Ms F’s tenancy and provided Mr X with a financial remedy for the distress caused. It is unlikely further investigation into how the Council investigated Ms F’s alleged dog boarding business would achieve more for Mr X or lead to a different outcome.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains the Council failed to adequately investigate his complaint about his neighbour who he said was operating an unlicensed dog boarding business between January 2018 and May 2020. Mr X said the dogs boarding at his neighbour’s property barked for long hours which caused him distress. He said the Council wrongly concluded his neighbour was conducting no such business.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or
  • there is another body better placed to consider the complaint.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

  1. We cannot investigate complaints about the provision or management of social housing by a council acting as a registered social housing provider. (Local Government Act 1974, paragraph 5A schedule 5, as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I spoke to Mr X about the complaint.
  2. I considered information Mr X provided including
    • Correspondence between him and the Council
    • The outcome of Mr X’s complaint to the Housing Association and the Housing Ombudsman about the matter.
  3. Mr X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision before I made my final decision.

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What I found

What happened

  1. Mr X is a housing association (HA) tenant and between January 2018 and May 2020 he lived next door to Ms F who was also a HA tenant.
  2. In January 2020 Mr X contacted the Council about Ms F. He said she was running an unlicenced dog boarding business at her house. Mr X said this was causing an ongoing neighbour dispute due to Ms F’s anti-social behaviour and unbearable noise which he had reported to the HA who was conducting its own investigation into matters.
  3. The Council investigated Mr X’s concerns about Ms F’s unlicenced dog boarding business. It said it was satisfied she was not boarding dogs at her home and therefore she did not require a licence.
  4. Mr X complained to the Council about the inadequacy of its investigation and disagreed with its decision. The Council responded outlining the actions it took. This included visiting Ms F, conducting internet and social media searches and sending her a letter outlining licensing requirements. The council said Ms F way well have carried out activities that required a licence however based on the evidence it had seen, it did not believe such activities were taking place anymore.
  5. Mr X escalated his complaint to stage 2. He said the Council’s investigation into the matter was poor and the dogs were howling at all hours. The Council wrote to Mr X with its final response. It reiterated that based on the evidence it had it would take no further action against Ms F.
  6. Mr X remained unhappy and complained to the Ombudsman.

My findings

  1. The evidence shows Mr X complained to the HA in its capacity as both his and Ms F’s landlord about the ongoing noise and anti-social behaviour he has experienced. Since complaining to the us Mr X escalated his complaint to the HA to the Housing Ombudsman.
  2. The HA agreed to an early resolution with the Housing Ombudsman. It apologised to Mr X for the distress the anti-social behaviour and noise from Ms F’s dogs caused him. The HA paid Mr X £1300 to compensate him for the distress and upset the matter caused him. The HA have since terminated Ms F’s tenancy and she left the property in May 2020.
  3. Mr X said his complaint to us is now solely about how the Council investigated Ms F’s alleged unlicensed dog boarding business. However, I intend to discontinue my investigation. The most the Ombudsman could achieve if we found fault in how the Council investigated this would be to ask the Council to look at it again. As Ms F no longer lives next door to Mr X asking the Council to do that would not achieve anything worthwhile.
  4. I also consider the question of whether Ms F should have had a dog boarding licence or not did not in itself cause an injustice to Mr X. The injustice Mr F experienced during this matter was anti-social behaviour and noise, which he said was caused by Ms F and her dogs. The HA as Ms F’s landlord was better placed to investigate this. Having done so, it provided Mr X with a significant financial remedy after agreeing to an early resolution with the Housing Ombudsman. We must use public money carefully. It is unlikely that further investigation by us into how the Council investigated whether Ms F was operating a dog boarding business would achieve anything more for Mr X or lead to a different outcome. Therefore, I decided to discontinue my investigation.

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Final decision

  1. I discontinued this investigation because it is unlikely further investigation would lead to a different outcome or achieve anything further for Mr X

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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