The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Miss B complains about the way the Council has considered her application for re-housing and the priority awarded to her application. Miss B says that because the Council downgraded her application she is unlikely to be able to make a successful bid for a property. She says she needs to be closer to family for support and her current property is having an adverse impact on her health. There was fault by the Council in not allowing Miss B time to make direct bids with the increased priority the Council had awarded. As a result she missed out on a property and had the priority removed before she had chance to make a successful bid. The Council will, within a month of this decision, apologise, reinstate the higher priority and pay £500.
- Miss B complains about the way the Council has considered her application for re-housing and the priority awarded to her application. Miss B says that because the Council downgraded her application she is unlikely to be able to make a successful bid for a property. She says she needs to be closer to family for support and her current property is having an adverse impact on her health.
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 considered the complaint and spoke to Miss B’s representative. I asked the Council for its comments on the complaint and additional information. I sent a copy of a draft of this statement to Miss B and the Council and invited their comments
What I found
- Miss B moved into her home in 2001. The Council did some adaptations to the property in 2013 to meet Miss B’s needs. Miss B has osteoarthritis and difficulty mobilising and has help from her family for aspects of her care. Miss B joined the housing register for a transfer in August 2016. In January 2018 Miss B asked for priority for her application.
- In March the Council granted priority because Miss B would be down-sizing. Miss B’s application was registered so she could bid for ground floor properties that would meet her medical needs.
- In April the Council invited Miss B to view a property. Miss B did not consider the area was suitable because her son had had problems in that area. The Council cancelled her priority but after contact from Miss B’s MP it reinstated it as it accepted the area wasn’t suitable and the property needed adaptations.
- The Council then offered a house but withdrew it because it accepted it was not ground floor accommodation.
- The Council offered a further property. Miss B did not attend either of the two appointments that were made to view it because she was unwell. The Council cancelled her priority as it considered it had made a reasonable offer. It maintained that position when Miss B asked for a review.
- The Council’s policy says that it will review applications where priority has been awarded for under-occupancy at least quarterly. This is to check the applicant is bidding consistently and realistically and, if they are not, then the Council may make bids on their behalf.
- Here Miss B made two bids within two days of being awarded priority. The Council has said these properties were open to bids from waiting list applicants rather than applicants such as Miss B who were bidding with priority. An officer telephoned Miss B and explained the properties she needed to bid for and placed three bids on her behalf. This was not in accordance with the Council’s policy to review applications like Miss B’s quarterly. The purpose of a review of bids made is to ensure the applicant is bidding consistently and realistically. Here Miss B had not had chance to make many bids. Miss B made another bid a week after the award of priority where she came second in the queue position. This shows that she could make bids on suitable properties.
- A week later officers then placed a further two bids and offered Miss B one of them. Miss B declined the property because her son had been bullied in the area as a teenager. The Council cancelled Miss B’s award of priority because it considered it had made a reasonable offer. That decision was reversed when Miss B appealed. But in the meantime, Miss B had made four more bids. She was first for two of these. One could not be pursued as it was not adapted. But for the second the Council has said that Miss B was not considered for this because of the other offer made as a result of the Council’s own direct bids.
- The result of the Council not allowing Miss B to make her own bids for properties meant she missed out on a property. It has also meant the priority was removed before Miss B had chance to make a successful bid.
- To remedy this the Council should reinstate the higher priority and allow a reasonable period, in accordance with its policy, for Miss B to make bids before reviewing her bids and considering making direct bids. It should also make a payment to recognise that Miss B has missed out on a property she would otherwise have been awarded and has not been able to bid with the higher priority.
- Miss B considers that priority should be awarded because of her medical needs. An occupational therapist has visited and considers that Miss B’s home does meet her needs. There is no evidence of fault in the Council’s consideration of Miss B’s medical needs and the relevance of them to her housing priority. The adaptations that have been done to Miss B’s property mean that it is suitable for her needs. If that changes then the Council will have to consider the new circumstances.
- The Council will apologise to Miss B and pay her £500.
- The Council should reinstate the higher priority and allow a reasonable period, in accordance with its policy, for Miss B to make bids before reviewing her bids and considering making direct bids.
- There was fault by the Council in not allowing Miss B time to make direct bids with the increased priority the Council had awarded. As a result she missed out on a property and had the priority removed before she had chance to make a successful bid.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman