The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We shall not investigate this complaint about the handling of Mr X’s housing applications. The complaint about events in 2019 is late. The Council has already done enough to remedy the complaint about more recent events.
- Mr X complains the Council did not act on a housing application he made in 2019 and rejected his subsequent applications without telling him of his review right. He says this made him feel depressed and he believes he could have obtained social housing elsewhere by now if the Council had responded to his 2019 application.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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)
- 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)
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate. 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by the complainant and copy correspondence from the Council. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
- I gave Mr X the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
Application in 2019
- Mr X says he made a housing application in 2019, heard nothing for a year, then contacted the Council, which said it had no record of the application. Mr X knew about this more than 12 months before complaining to us in June 2021. So the restriction in paragraph 3 applies to this part of the complaint. I do not see good reason to accept this late part of the complaint now. Nor do I believe there is a realistic chance now of reaching a clear enough view of what happened. So I shall not investigate this part of the complaint.
Applications in 2020
- Mr X applied again in September and November 2020. Both times the Council told him he was not eligible to join the housing register because he was not in any of the Council’s priority groups. There was no fault in that, in itself. However, the Council did not tell Mr X of his legal right to ask the Council to review its decisions. The Council accepts that was fault. The fault meant Mr X was not able to have the decisions reviewed at the time.
- The Council apologised and offered Mr X £150. It also then reviewed the most recent decision and concluded the decision not to put Mr X on the register had been correct. By doing a review, the Council put Mr X back in the position he should have been in but for its fault. The Council also said it would ensure its decision letters explain the review right in future. I consider those actions were a suitable remedy for the Council’s fault.
- I appreciate Mr X does not agree with the Council’s decisions to reject his applications. However, the evidence suggests the Council reached the decisions taking account of the information from Mr X and of its housing allocations policy. Therefore the decisions were properly reached so I cannot criticise them.
- We shall not investigate this complaint. This is because part of the complaint is late and the Council has already remedied the other part of the complaint satisfactorily.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman