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Coventry City Council (17 011 877)

Category : Housing > Allocations

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 26 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman has not found fault in the way the Council considered Ms C and Mr D’s application for housing priority based on health difficulties.

The complaint

  1. Ms C and Mr D complain about the Council’s decision not to give them priority for housing based on health difficulties.

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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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have discussed the complaint with Ms C and I have considered the documents she and Mr D have sent.

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What I found

  1. The 1996 Housing Act says councils are required by law to have an allocations scheme for determining priorities and setting out the procedure they will follow in allocating housing. Councils must allocate accommodation in accordance with this scheme.
  2. The Council’s policy has seven bands which determine priority for housing. These include:
    • Exceptional housing needs due to health difficulties (priority 1A – the highest priority).
    • Severe overcrowding – require an additional two or more bedrooms (priority 1A).
    • Urgent housing needs due to health difficulties (priority 2A).
    • Low level housing needs due to health difficulties (priority 2B).
  3. Applicants are required to complete a medical form and to provide supporting information, if they want to apply for priority because of health difficulties.
  4. The policy says a health priority is not based on the seriousness of the applicant’s condition but is solely based on the seriousness of the impact that their current type and location of housing has on the condition and whether this would improve significantly through a move to alternative accommodation.
  5. In terms of overcrowding, the policy says it will allocate one bedroom only to a married or cohabiting couple.

Key facts

  1. Ms C and Mr D are both registered blind. They both have tenancies for a one bedroom ground floor flat which they rent from a housing association. They are a couple and would like to live together, but say they cannot move in together as they need two bedrooms. Mr D suffers from asthma. Ms C says Mr D disturbs her sleep with his wheezing and coughing if they sleep in the same room.
  2. Ms C made an application for housing priority on her and Mr D’s behalf in May 2017. The application was based on Mr D’s medical needs. They provided the following documents in support of the application:
    • A letter from the Guide Dogs Association which said that guide dogs and their owners ideally should have a ground floor flat with a self-contained garden.
    • A letter from the GP which said Mr D had asthma and noisy breathing. It said Mr D had requested a separate bedroom to allow him to sleep independently.
  3. The Council responded to the application on 28 June 2017 and said:
    • Mr D’s present accommodation did not adversely impact on his medical condition and a move would not ease or alleviate his symptoms.
    • His asthma and noisy breathing was not sufficient to prove exceptional circumstances to be eligible for an additional bedroom.
  4. It placed them in priority band 3a (no priority) and said they could only bid for one bedroom properties.
  5. On 20 July 2017, the Council said it would allow Ms C and Mr D to bid on two or three bedroom properties because they were unable to share a bedroom because of medical issues.
  6. Ms C and Mr D’s advocate wrote to the Council on 31 July 2017 asking it to review the decision. It said Mr D’s upstairs neighbour harassed and intimidated him and this affected his health as he felt depressed, could not sleep well and felt tired. The Council based its assessment on his asthma and did not assess how his housing affected his mental health.
  7. The advocate provided further information on 29 August 2017 and said:
    • They needed two bedrooms because of Mr D’s asthma and coughing.
    • They had two guide dogs so needed extra space for them. Ms C’s property was too small for two people and two dogs.
    • They could not provide any more medical evidence.
  8. The Council provided its review of the decision on 18 September 2017. It said:
    • Its decision not to award medical priority was correct.
    • There was no evidence that the current accommodation was adversely affecting their medical condition.
    • There was no evidence of noise nuisance or harassment by Mr D’s upstairs neighbour.
    • Mr D had made three complaints about the neighbour and these related to noise nuisance. The housing officer visited Mr D and Mr D described the noise as everyday noise. The housing officer visited the upstairs neighbour’s flat and said it was carpeted apart from the living room which had a large rug. The housing officer gave Mr D a diary sheet to note any incidents.
  9. I further questioned the Council’s decision to allow Ms C and Mr D to bid on two bedroom properties. It appeared from the documents this was a discretionary decision at the request of Ms C and Mr D. However, the Council said that, in terms of the allocation policy it did not give Mr D any medical priority nor did it consider the couple to be overcrowded if they lived together.

Analysis

  1. I find no evidence of fault in the way the Council considered Ms C and Mr D’s application for priority for health reasons. It assessed their original application based on Mr D’s health condition which was asthma.
  2. It applied its policy and considered the medical evidence which Mr D submitted which was a letter from the GP which confirmed Mr D had asthma and that Ms C wanted a second bedroom because Mr D’s breathing disturbed her sleep. The Council said there was no evidence that Mr D’s current property exacerbated his condition.
  3. Ms C and Mr D then asked for a review and asked the Council to consider Mr D’s mental health because of his upstairs neighbour. The Council reviewed its files and said it had received three complaints about noise from the upstairs neighbour. The Council carried out a visit to Mr D and his upstairs neighbour and could find no evidence of noise or harassment or that Mr D’s mental health was affected.
  4. The Council has considered the relevant issues and its own policy. The Ombudsman cannot question the merits of the Council’s decision where there is no administrative fault.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation and have not found fault by the Council.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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