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Runnymede Borough Council (19 014 381)

Category : Housing > Allocations

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 20 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X and Ms Y complain about the Council’s handling of their housing applications. The Ombudsman will not investigate the complaint because past events fall outside our jurisdiction and there is no evidence of fault in the way the Council is dealing with their current application.

The complaint

  1. The complainants, who I refer to as Mr X and Ms Y, say the Council has been at fault in the way it has dealt with their housing applications and they have not been happy with the service provided.

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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 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’. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. In considering the complaint I spoke to Ms Y and reviewed the information the complainants and the Council provided. I gave the complainants the opportunity to comment on my draft decision and considered what they said.

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What I found

  1. Mr X, Ms Y and their child live with Mr X’s mother in her property. I shall refer to Mr X’s mother as Mrs Q. Mrs Q is disabled and receives care and support from Mr X and Ms Y.
  2. In 2015 and 2018 Mr X and Mrs Y made housing applications to the Council for housing. Over time the complainants have been back and forth as to whether to include Mrs Q in their application. The Council closed their 2018 application in December 2018 when the complainants did not respond to the Council’s request for financial information to support their application.
  3. In August 2019 Mr X and Ms Y complained to the Council about how their previous applications had been dealt with. The Council responded at Stage 1 of its complaints procedure but it did not uphold the complaint. It advised how the complaint could be taken to Stage 2 which the complainants did some months later.
  4. In addressing the Stage 2 complaint in January 2020 the Council considered the complainants’ entire housing application history and addressed concerns they had raised. It noted it was not clear how the complainants wanted to resolve their housing situation but that it would help advise on options for them moving forward. It did not accept that it had failed to provide a proper service to Mr X and Ms Y.
  5. In February 2020 Mr X and Ms Y attended a housing assessment appointment to look at their housing options and they have recently obtained new medical information which the Council will be assessing.

Assessment

  1. The restriction highlighted at paragraph 2 applies to matters relating to the 2015 and 2018 housing applications. These fall outside our jurisdiction because they happened too far in the past to be investigated now and I see no grounds which warrant exercising discretion to do so.
  2. It is clear Mr X and Ms Y have been in a difficult situation which has been tied to the care and support they provide to Mrs Q while living in her home. Understandably, they want their own home as well as ensuring Mrs Q is properly cared for. They are currently pursuing a housing application for themselves without Mrs Q, whose needs will be assessed separately with the involvement of the County Council. The Council has recently carried out a housing assessment for Mr X and Ms Y and it will review any medical evidence they provide. I have seen no evidence to suggest there has been fault in how the Council is dealing with the complainants or their housing application.
  3. The complainants say the Stage 2 response did not address all their concerns about the 2018 application and an issue concerning the change in name of the lead applicant. However, this issue was overtaken by the fact that the complainants did not respond to the request for financial information.
  4. I note their comments about why they delayed in making the Stage 2 complaint but this made no difference to the outcome. I understand they were upset by contact the Council made with Mrs Q’s landlord. However, what appears to have been a misunderstanding also did not change either the complainants’ or Mrs Q’s position.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because past events fall outside our jurisdiction and there is no evidence of fault in the way the Council is dealing with their current application.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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