The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Council failed to properly investigate Mr B’s noise nuisance complaints, failed to keep satisfactory records and failed to respond to his letters. The Council has agreed to apologise, make a payment to Mr B, investigate the noise issue and review its procedures.
- Mr B complains that the Council has failed to take adequate action to deal with his noise nuisance complaints.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have:
- considered the complaint and the documents provided by the complainant;
- discussed the issues with the complainant;
- made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council has provided; and
- given the Council and the complainant the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
What I found
- Mr B lives in a council owned flat. He says there has been a water hammering noise coming from the flat beneath his since September 2015.
- Mr B complained to the Council about the noise in October 2015. The Council arranged for a plumber to investigate. Access to the flat could not be gained on the first two attempts and so an appointment was arranged to visit in January 2016. The plumber found nothing wrong with the pipework in the flat.
- In September 2016, the Citizens Advice Bureau complained to the Council on behalf of Mr B. It said that it had helped Mr B to report the noise problem in May 2016 but other than an acknowledgement, the Council had not responded or contacted Mr B.
- The Council then referred the complaint to its repairs team to investigate the cause of the noise. After some early difficulties gaining access, the Council carried out some plumbing repairs to the below flat in November 2016 which it expected to resolve the problem.
- Mr B complained to the Council in April 2017. He said that the Council had not responded to the letter sent by the Citizens Advice Bureau in September 2016, and while he was aware that some investigation of the noise had since been carried out, the noise problem remained.
- The Council says that it referred Mr B’s complaint to a Case Management Officer who contacted Mr B, commissioned a new investigation into the noise and agreed to carry out some noise monitoring. Mr B says this is not correct and that the Council has not contacted him since he complained.
- The Council has no record of the noise complaints Mr B made in late 2015 or of any action it took to try to resolve the problem. This is fault.
- It is not clear whether Mr B continued to pursue his noise complaint between January 2016 and September 2016, when the Citizens Advice Bureau wrote to the Council. But it seems likely that the noise problem was reported again in May 2016 as there is reference to this in the Citizens Advice Bureau’s letter.
- The Council investigated in October and November 2016 and carried out works to try and resolve the problem. However, it did not respond to the complaint sent by the Citizens Advice Bureau, it did not write to Mr B with the outcome of its investigation and it did not check that the problem had been resolved. This was fault.
- The Council says that after Mr B complained in April 2017, it contacted Mr B, commissioned another investigation and agreed to carry out noise monitoring. But it does not know if any investigation or monitoring was carried out because the Case Management Officer has been unavailable for an extended period. On the balance of probabilities, and taking into account the lack of any supporting evidence, I consider it unlikely that the Council contacted Mr B, commissioned another investigation or carried out any noise monitoring. This was fault.
- The Council failed to properly investigate Mr B’s reports about noise, failed to respond to Mr B’s complaints and failed to keep satisfactory records. These failings have caused Mr B frustration and avoidable time and trouble. He has also been left with uncertainty as to whether the Council would have been able to resolve the noise problem if it had properly investigated, as it should have done.
- Within four weeks, the Council will start an investigation in to the noise, apologise to Mr B and pay him £200 in recognition of the failings identified in this case. As part of its investigation, it will consider taking into account Mr B’s noise diaries and his recordings of the noise.
- Within eight weeks, the Council will:
- write to Mr B and the Ombudsman with the outcome of its investigation;
- remind its staff of the importance of proper record keeping;
- review its complaints procedures to ensure it always provides responses to complaints; and
- review its procedures for dealing with noise complaints to ensure open complaints are not left unresolved and when complaints are closed, the complainant is provided with the outcome of its investigation in writing.
- I have completed my investigation and uphold Mr B’s complaint. There was fault by the Council which caused him injustice. The action the Council has agreed to take is sufficient to remedy that injustice.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman