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Test Valley Borough Council (21 013 769)

Category : Housing > Allocations

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 06 Apr 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complains about the way the Council made its decision not to allow him to join the housing register. The Council has now added Mr X to the housing register and backdated his registration date. We have discontinued our investigation as we are unlikely to achieve anything further.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains about the Council’s decision not to allow him to join the housing register. Mr X says the Council did not consider medical information provided in support of his application, meaning the Council did not take full account of Mr X’s circumstances. This is preventing him from seeking new accommodation. Mr X would like the Council to reconsider its decision.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide further investigation would not lead to a different outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Mr X and discussed the complaint with him.
  2. I considered information provided by the Council.
  3. Mr X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.

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Relevant legislation and guidance

Housing allocations

  1. Local authorities carry out assessments of applications for housing, and allocate property to eligible applicants, under part 6 of the Housing Act 1996.
  2. All local housing authorities must have a published allocations scheme that sets out how they assess and prioritise allocations for housing. Local housing authorities must give ‘reasonable preference’ to certain categories of people, including but not limited to:
    • applicants who have become homeless;
    • applicants occupying unsanitary or overcrowded housing, or residing in unsatisfactory housing conditions; and
    • applicants who need to move on medical or welfare grounds.
  3. The allocation scheme should set out how these groups will be given ‘reasonable preference’, as well as any local priorities.
  4. The Council’s Housing Allocations Scheme (the Scheme) sets out who can join the housing register. Section 15 outlines the circumstances in which applicants are deemed to have a need for accommodation. Section 15.6 says:

“An applicant or household member who has a significant health or welfare problem caused or substantially worsened by their existing accommodation and where it could be alleviated or resolved by rehousing, maybe awarded priority on health and/or welfare grounds.”

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What I found

  1. Mr X applied to join the Council’s housing register. On the application form, Mr X said he was applying to move because of his mental health.
  2. The Council assessed Mr X’s application and wrote to Mr X with its decision. The Council said Mr X did not qualify to join the housing register because he was a social housing tenant already adequately housed.
  3. Mr X sought a review of this decision, explaining antisocial behaviour around his property was negatively affecting his wellbeing. Mr X included a letter from his GP in support of his request for a review. The Council asked Mr X’s landlord for information about the alleged antisocial behaviour and its impact on Mr X.
  4. After considering the landlord’s responses, the Council wrote to Mr X to explain the outcome of its review. In its letter, the Council:
    • explained the basis for its original decision; and
    • detailed the information it had received about antisocial behaviour, and urged Mr X to engage with the police and his landlord about these matters.
  5. The Council also said:

“In the absence of any information that suggests you or your property is specifically targeted, and therefore causing you to be at risk of serious harm, and the absence of any medical information to suggest your health and well-being is declining as a direct consequence of your housing, I must up hold the original decision that you do not qualify to join the housing register because you are considered to be adequately housed.”

  1. Mr X was not satisfied with the Council’s decision, in particular the suggestion there was no medical evidence to support his case, and referred the matter to the Ombudsman.

Analysis

  1. Mr X told us he provided medical information in support of his case when he sought a review of the Council’s decision. Mr X did not therefore understand the Council’s assertion there was no medical information linking his ill health with his housing situation. The letter from his GP had explained how Mr X’s circumstances, in particular the effect of the antisocial behaviour, were having a significant impact on his physical and mental health. Mr X believed the Council had not considered the letter.
  2. In information provided to the Ombudsman, the Council noted it had considered the letter, but had decided it did not adequately support Mr X’s case at the time. The Council says the letter summed up what Mr X had told his GP, but it did not provide any professional medical observations for the Council to consider.
  3. The Council made detailed enquiries of Mr X’s GP during the Ombudsman’s investigation. Based on the information it received from Mr X’s GP, the Council has now added Mr X to its housing register and backdated his application.
  4. Because of the Council’s actions, Mr X is now on the housing register from the date of his application and can bid for new properties. An investigation by the Ombudsman is unlikely to be able to achieve anything further for Mr X. Additionally, there are no strong public interest grounds to justify further investigation.
  5. I discussed this with Mr X and have discontinued the investigation on this basis.

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Final decision

  1. I have discontinued my investigation. This is because the Council has now added Mr X to its housing register and an investigation will not be able to achieve anything further.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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