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Reading Borough Council (19 011 999)

Category : Environment and regulation > Noise

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 27 Feb 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Ms D complains the Council’s Environmental Health Team failed to investigate a noise nuisance. The Ombudsman has found the Council investigated the noise issue as part of an anti-social behaviour and breach of tenancy case and those actions fall outside of our remit. The Ombudsman is prevented by law from investigating the key actions of the Council in this case and has discontinued the investigation.

The complaint

  1. Ms D complains the Council’s Environmental Health Team has not investigated a noise nuisance caused by a neighbour who is a Council tenant. The noise has been happening since 2016.

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What I have investigated

  1. I have looked at what involvement the Council’s Environmental Health Team have had.
  2. I explained to Ms D that I cannot look at other aspects of her case or events prior to 2019.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
  2. We cannot investigate complaints about the management of social housing by a council acting as a registered social housing provider. (Local Government Act 1974, paragraph 5A schedule 5, as amended)
  3. We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have looked at the information provided by Ms D. I asked the Council questions and examined its response.
  2. I shared my draft decision with both parties.

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What I found

What happened

  1. Ms D has been pursuing complaints about the behaviour of her neighbours with the Council since 2016. That includes reports of a noise nuisance. The Council’s Anti-Social Behaviour Team have been investigating.
  2. In March 2019 the Council confirmed that noise complaints were not for its Environmental Health Team in this instance. That was because of the ongoing investigations by the Anti-Social Behaviour Team which would continue to consider noise as part of its anti-social behaviour case. The Council detailed its actions and its noise assessments in a letter to Ms D in May.

What should have happened

  1. Usually noise nuisance complaints are investigated by the Council’s Environmental Health Team. However, in cases involving potential anti-social behaviour by a Council tenant the Anti-Social Behaviour Team may include noise issues as part of its investigation.

Was there fault by the Council

  1. There has been no statutory noise nuisance investigation by the Environmental Health Team in 2019, instead it assisted the Anti-Social Behaviour Team who took the lead on the case. Given the minimal involvement by the Environmental Health Team, in respect of a statutory noise nuisance investigation, there are no key actions I can investigate.

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Final decision

  1. I have stopped the investigation because the key issues are not something the Ombudsman can consider.

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Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate

  1. The Ombudsman cannot look at the how the Council investigates anti-social behaviour and breach of tenancy conditions by a Council tenant. That apples to this case because Ms D’s neighbour is a Council tenant.
  2. The Ombudsman will usually only look back at events covering a limited period because he expects a complaint to be made to him within 12 months of the problems arising.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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