The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Ms X complained the Council failed to consider all her circumstances when determining her rehousing band, in particular the impact on her mental health. The re-banding decision was made on behalf of the Council by one of its partners. The Council is unable to demonstrate all evidence was taken into consideration which is fault. The Council has now given Ms X gold priority banding which is a suitable remedy.
- Ms X complained the Council:
- failed to consider all her circumstances when determining her rehousing band, in particular the impact on her mental health;
- delayed agreeing a management move and providing alternative accommodation; and
- she had to pay double rent because of the short timescale specified for her to move.
- Ms X says she has experienced anxiety and distress.
What I have investigated
- My investigation is only concerned with the complaint about the rehousing band. I explain at paragraph 20 below why I am not investigating the other issues.
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
- As part of the investigation, I have:
- considered the complaint and the documents provided by the complainant;
- made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council provided;
- discussed the issues with the complainant;
- sent my draft decision to both the Council and the complainant and taken account of their comments in reaching my final decision.
What I found
- Partner organisations in North Yorkshire formed the North Yorkshire Home Choice (NYHC)in 2013. This legal entity is used for the purposes of registering and processing applications for social housing. It operates a common allocations policy.
- Ms X was a housing association tenant living outside the City of York Council boundary. Ms X wanted to live in York because her family and support system are located there. NYHC encourages applicants to apply to the local authority in which they live or their own housing association to process applications.
- Ms X made an application for housing and chose the Council as the processing partner. Ms X was entitled to apply to any partner within NYHC. On receipt of the application, the Council noted Ms X was a housing association tenant and so passed the application to the housing association for processing.
- The housing association processed Ms X’s application and on 25 March 2021 determined that she was eligible for a three bedroom property and was given the silver rehousing band based on her circumstances. The letter said that if she felt her band had been incorrectly assessed, she should write within 21 days explaining her reasons and providing any relevant supporting documentation. Ms X requested a review of her banding.
- The Housing Association considered Ms X’s review request and wrote to her on 7 May 2021. It explained that on considering her initial application, she was awarded bronze band. However, management discretion was applied because of the unsuitable bathing facilities at the property and a silver band was given. It explained that to review the banding further, Ms X would need to provide supporting evidence to show her current accommodation is having a direct impact, or seriously compromising a medically diagnosed health or wellbeing condition and that a property move would remove or significantly improve the impact. It said she had 21 days to appeal and request a stage 2 review which would be carried out by a member of the NYHC review panel.
- Ms X wrote requesting a stage 2 review panel. She said the previous review had not been conducted in a professional manner and that she did not consider her needs had been properly taken into consideration. Ms X said no consideration had been given to the size of the property, the lack of facilities, the abuse by neighbours, rat issues and the detrimental this was having on her mental health. Ms X said she would be submitting two further pieces of evidence.
- NYHC review panel considered Ms X’s appeal. The written decision listed the information considered which included a supporting medical letter, the final page of a consultant psychiatrist letter, text acknowledgements from the police, a police letter and a letter from Ms X. The decision said the panel had reviewed all the documents and it believed silver was the correct band. It said it took this view because Ms X had less than adequate bathing facilities and the bedroom sizes were not adequate. It said there was mention of anti-social behaviour but there was no police evidence or further details attached to the application. The panel considered the silver banding was correct.
- Ms X’s application to join the housing register was made to the Council but it passed the request to Ms X’s housing association to consider. Both organisations are members of the NYHC partnership and it is open to applicants to apply to any partner. In this case the decision on Ms X’s banding was made by the housing association on behalf of the Council and so the actions of the housing association are considered the actions of the Council.
- The information provided indicates consideration was given to Ms X’s situation and silver banding awarded on the basis of inadequate bathing facilities at the property. As part of her application and review request, Ms X also provided medical evidence and information to suggest she was experiencing anti social behaviour. The panel notes the lack of evidence regarding the anti social behaviour and suggests she discusses it further with her landlord. There is no mention of the medical evidence or explanation of why the panel did not consider this met the threshold for gold banding.
- In response to my enquiries, the Council says that while it believes its partner organisation considered all the supporting evidence provided by Ms X, it is unable to demonstrate this was the case. This is fault. The Council says it is unable to explain fully to Ms X the reasons why she was not considered to meet the criteria for gold banding. The Council apologies for this and offered a further review. However, after a senior officer spoke with Ms X, the Council decided the best outcome was to award Ms X gold banding which will allow her to bid on City of York properties from April 2022. Ms X is happy with this outcome.
- To remedy the injustice caused to Ms X as a result of the fault in this case the Council, within one month of my final decision, will write to Ms X confirming it has accepted her application for re-housing and will allocate her gold banding with a priority date of 25 March 2021.
- I have completed my investigation with a finding of fault for the reasons explained in this statement. The Council has agreed to implement the actions I have recommended. These appropriately remedy any injustice caused by fault.
Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate
- Ms X complained about delay in agreeing a management move and providing alternative accommodation. She also complained she had to pay double rent due to the short timescale specified for her to move. Ms X is a housing association tenant and these actions she complained about are the actions of the housing association, not the Council. The Local Government Ombudsman does not have jurisdiction to consider complaints about the actions of the housing association. Therefore, I am unable to investigate this part of Ms X’s complaint because it falls outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman