London Borough of Merton (18 015 509)

Category : Environment and regulation > Other

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 01 May 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complained the Council failed to take appropriate action to deal with a car parked outside his property for 18 months. There was no fault in the Council’s actions.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complained the Council failed to take appropriate action to deal with a car which has been parked outside his property for around 18 months.
  2. Mr X said this has reduced the number of parking spaces on the road and the car is an eyesore.

Back to top

The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. 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)

Back to top

How I considered this complaint

  1. I spoke to Mr X and considered the information he provided. This included the complaints correspondence.
  2. I made enquiries of the Council and considered the information it sent me. This included correspondence with the owner of the car, photographs of the car and the relevant Council Officer’s notes.
  3. I wrote to Mr X and the Council with my draft decision and considered their comments before I made my final decision.

Back to top

What I found

  1. The law gives councils the statutory power to remove abandoned cars on a public highway.
  2. It is for councils to decide whether cars are abandoned. This is likely if at least one of the following applies:
    • they have no keeper on the DVLA’s database and are untaxed;
    • they are stationary for a significant period;
    • they are unsuitably parked;
    • they are significantly damaged, run down or unroadworthy;
    • they are burned out; or
    • they have number plates missing.

What happened

  1. In 2018, Mr X contacted the Council and complained about a car outside his property. The Council put a sticker on the car which said it may remove it if the owner did not take appropriate action.
  2. In November 2018, Mr X complained again. He said the car had now been there for about 18 months and had become an eyesore. He said the state of the car suggested it may not be roadworthy. He asked the Council to put another sticker on the car because someone had removed the original one.
  3. A Council Officer inspected the car later that month and put another sticker on it.
  4. At the end of November, Mr X contacted the Council again. He said someone had removed the sticker and asked the Council to replace it.
  5. Mr X contacted the Council again on 4 December and asked it to take action because the car had not been moved.
  6. The Officer replied on 5 December. They said they had been in contact with the registered owner of the car and after discussions with a senior colleague, they had decided the car was not abandoned. The Officer said the car had all the legal requirements. The Officer said they would reinspect the car at sporadic intervals when they judged it necessary.
  7. Mr X was unhappy with the Officer’s response and lodged a formal complaint on 5 December.
  8. The Council responded. It said it had been in communication with the registered owner but could not share these discussions due to data protection issues. The Council repeated that its checks had shown the car was in a ‘fair condition’, was taxed and had an MOT and was legally parked on a public highway with no parking restrictions. The Council said it had acted in line with legislation when it decided the car was not abandoned and so it would take no further action.
  9. Mr X responded. He said he understood the car was not abandoned but the Council had a duty to speak the owner and ask him to remove his car. He said the car was not in fair condition and the Officer’s judgement was flawed.

My findings

  1. It is for councils to decide if a car is abandoned or not. In this case, the Council carried out several site inspections, spoke to the car owner and made checks which determined the car was taxed and had an MOT. The Council Officer then used their professional judgement, based on the individual facts of the case, to determine the car was not abandoned. That is a decision officers were entitled to take, and it was taken correctly, Therefore, the Ombudsman has no grounds to criticise it.
  2. Because the Council has determined the car was not abandoned, it has no duty or obligation to speak to the owner to ask him to remove the car. There was no fault in the Council’s actions.
  3. Even if I had found fault in the way the Council made its decision, I do not consider that would have caused Mr X significant personal injustice. I recognise he considers the car to be annoying and unsightly, and it is taking up a parking space on his road outside his property. But it is not blocking Mr X’s driveway or the road or pavement and its presence has not caused significant practical inconvenience or problems for him.

Back to top

Final decision

  1. There was no fault in the Council’s actions. Therefore, I have completed my investigation.

Back to top

Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

Print this page