Dacorum Borough Council (22 003 438)

Category : Housing > Allocations

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 10 Feb 2023

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr Y complained the Council took too long to process and award priority to his housing application. We found delay by the Council in assessing Mr Y’s medical evidence. This fault meant Mr Y missed out on an offer of suitable accommodation. The Council has agreed to make a payment to Mr Y in acknowledgement of the injustice caused to him.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I shall call Mr Y, complains of delay by the Council in processing and awarding correct priority to his housing application. It also did not make a direct offer of accommodation despite him being turned down for a property offered by a Housing Association.
  2. As a result, Mr Y says he had to stay in unsuitable shared accommodation. He says the Council should make him a payment in recognition of the unnecessary distress caused to him by the claimed fault.
  3. Mr Y also complains the Council:
  • placed him in a one-bedroom property when his complex needs meant he needed an extra bedroom for overnight care from his parents;
  • allowed him to move into a property where it had prior knowledge of noise and antisocial behaviour which, owing to his needs, made the property unsuitable for him;
  • failed to deal with noise and antisocial behaviour from other tenants in the surrounding area;
  • decided not to offer him a managed move to accommodation suitable for his needs; and
  • failed to carry out adaptations to his home and has taken too long to carry out repairs.

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What I have and have not investigated

  1. I have investigated Mr Y’s complaint about delay by the Council in processing and awarding the correct priority to his housing application and its decision not to make him a direct offer of accommodation. I have not investigated the complaints set out in paragraph 3.
  2. This is because we cannot investigate complaints about the Council’s actions which have not been through its complaint’s procedure and his complaints about the Council’s actions in its role as a manager of social housing.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint unless we are satisfied the council about the complaint and has had an opportunity to investigate and reply. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(5))
  2. We cannot investigate complaints about the provision or management of social housing by a council acting as a registered social housing provider. (Local Government Act 1974, paragraph 5A schedule 5, as amended)
  3. 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)
  4. If we are satisfied with an organisation’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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered Mr Y’s complaint and information he provided.
  2. I considered information from the Council, its response to our enquiries and its housing allocations policy.
  3. I set out my initial thoughts on the complaint in a draft decision statement and I considered Mr Y and the Council’s comments in response.

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What I found

  1. This explains how the Council will assess applications made to join its housing register and how it will allocate available properties.
  2. It says applicants to join its housing register must have lived at their current address for 12 months to be eligible.
  3. It says available properties, including those from housing associations and other social landlords, are advertised on its Moving with Dacorum website. It will approve applicants’ bids for housing association properties if they are suitable. It calls this nominating. Housing associations have their own allocations policies and use these to decide which bids are successful.
  4. The policy says that in exceptional circumstances it will make an applicant a direct offer of accommodation. This will happen if an applicant is:
  • Homeless
  • requires complex adaptations
  • is living in a mother and baby unit or supported housing,
  • is in a high risk group or
  • whose case has been approved by the internal housing panel as being urgent.

What happened

  1. Mr Y lived with his parents in their own privately owned home. He has depression, anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
  2. On 18 May Mr Y applied to join the Council’s housing register. The form said he needed to move to obey bail conditions requiring him not to contact his neighbours. He provided supporting medical information with his application.
  3. Mr Y did not fill out a section on the application form about people living with him that were not moving. On 27 May the Council told him this section must be complete before his application is registered.
  4. On 10 June 2021 Mr Y moved from his parents home into privately rented accommodation to obey his bail conditions. He told the Council.
  5. On 18 June 2021 the Council asked Mr Y about the reasons for his move. Mr Y explained his circumstances and explained his new home was not suitable for his needs.
  6. Mr Y had not lived at his new address for 12 months and so his application was not registered.
  7. Mr Y moved back to his parents home on 13 August. He told the Council and it agreed to waiver its requirement for applicants to have lived at their current address for 12 months continuously because of his circumstances.
  8. On 20 August Mr Y updated his housing application. The updated form said that Mr Y’s parents would be moving with him. This was wrong.
  9. On 15 September Mr Y asked the Council for an update on his application and explained he needed to move urgently.
  10. A housing needs officer (Officer 1) contacted Mr Y on 4 October. She told him the Council was unaware of the medical information he had previously sent in support of his application because of an IT glitch. She sent him a new medical form to complete.
  11. Mr Y replied asking the Council to consider his existing medical information as his accommodation was having an adverse impact on his depression, anxiety and OCD.
  12. On 7 October Mr Y’s care co-ordinator emailed the Council in support of his application. She said his anxiety, depression and OCD were being aggravated by the court case with his neighbours. She also said that Mr Y need a property that:
  • has a second bedroom so his parents could help support him living independently;
  • is on the ground floor property or one with a lift as stairs are difficult for him and;
  • has a modern bathroom and modern taps that he does not have to touch because he has blood blisters caused by handwashing.
  1. On 12 October 2021 the Council’s medical adviser awarded Mr Y’s application 10 medical points for low medical needs and 10 for him living in a property with shared facilities.
  2. Mr Y questioned the award the following day and explained the adverse impact his accommodation was having on him. Officer 1 sent his medical information to the Council’s external medical adviser for consideration.
  3. On 14 October Mr Y bid for a ground floor property (property 1). He was not successful.
  4. Mr Y bid for a first floor property without a lift on 26 October 2021. The Council said it could not consider him for this property as the medical assessor said he needed ground floor accommodation.
  5. On 29 October 2021 the Council’s external medical adviser awarded Mr Y’s application 30 points for medium medical needs. He said Mr Y needed self-contained ground floor accommodation with no internal stairs. It said there was not enough evidence to support his request for a second bedroom.
  6. On the same day the Council nominated Mr Y’s bid for a housing association property. The property was a first floor property with a lift. The nomination was unsuccessful as Mr Y did not meet the housing associations affordability check.
  7. Mr Y was unhappy, and, in November 2021, he complained say the Council should not have nominated him for a first floor property and it was taking too long to find him a new home. He asked for financial compensation. The Council’s response said that when ground floor accommodation is recommended it will sometimes agree first floor accommodation with a lift will be suitable.
  8. The Council’s response also said that Mr Y may have missed out on successfully bidding for one property because of delay in assessing his application. However it said that when the property was advertised it was considering if additional medical priority should be awarded to his application and so, it did not consider compensation was appropriate.
  9. In December 2021 Mr Y presented more medical information including a diagnosis of Autism.
  10. In February 2022 the Council awarded Mr Y’s application 50 medical points in recognition of his Autism diagnosis and difficulties with his neighbours. It said there was not enough evidence to support his request for an extra bedroom.
  11. On 23 February Mr Y bid for third floor property offered by a housing association. The Council told Mr Y it would not consider his bid because he needed ground floor accommodation and he had previously not met the housing associations affordability check.
  12. On 24 February Mr Y bid for a ground floor accommodation. His bid was not successful as another application had a higher priority.
  13. On 9 March 2022 Mr Y bid for first floor accommodation without a lift.
  14. On 14 March Mr Y’s care co-ordinator told the Council first floor properties without a lift would be suitable for him. Mr Y confirmed he was happy with his care co-ordinator’s recommendation.
  15. Mr Y’s bid of 9 March was successful and the Council offered him a tenancy.
  16. In April 2022 Mr Y complained about his bid of 24 February being unsuccessful and about how long it took to offer him a property. The Council replied explaining another applicant with a higher priority bid for the property and so his bid was unsuccessful. It accepted his application should have been processed sooner but said he only missed out on successfully bidding for one property.
  17. Mr Y escalated his complaint to the second stage of the Council’s complaints process in late April 2022. The Council said it had already considered his complaint and it would not investigate further.


  1. Mr Y made his housing application on 18 May 2021. He included medical information with his application. The Council’s response to Mr Y’s complaint of December 2021 accepts the medical information was not considered until October. I consider this delay amounts to fault by the Council. The correct medical priority was not awarded to his application until 29 October, some five months after he made his application.
  2. I am aware that Mr Y moved from his parents’ home in June 2021 and there were problems with how he completed the application form which meant his application could not be registered until August. However, I do not consider these mitigate the substantive delay I found in regarding consideration of his medical information.
  3. The Council’s delay in making its first decision about medical priority meant that Mr Y could not request a review of the Council’s decision sooner. The independent medical adviser increased Mr Y’s medical priority points. This compounds the impact of the delay as it means Mr Y’s application did not have the correct priority until 29 October 2021.
  4. On 14 October Mr Y bid for a one bedroom ground floor property. His bid was unsuccessful because another applicant had a higher priority. However, if Mr Y’s application had been given the correct priority sooner he would have been the applicant with the highest priority. I therefore find the delay by the Council resulted in Mr Y missing an offer of suitable accommodation.
  5. The evidence I have seen explains that living with his parents was having an adverse impact on Mr Y. Communications from Mr Y’s care co-ordinator explain the ongoing difficulties with his neighbours were having a detrimental impact on his mental health. I have also seen communications from Mr Y to the Council explaining his need to move was urgent. Therefore, on the balance of probabilities I consider Mr Y would have accepted the property he missed out on had it been offered to him.
  6. Mr Y was not offered a tenancy until 17 March 2022. Therefore, Mr Y was in accommodation that was unsuitable for him for five months longer than was necessary. For the reasons set out above it is clear that remaining at his parents’ home for this extra time caused him distress and adversely affected his mental health.
  7. Mr Y says he became so desperate to leave his parents home that he had to have medical advice changed so he could bid for first floor accommodation without a lift. I have seen correspondence from professionals involved in Mr Y’s care explaining why first floor accommodation without a lift would meet his needs. I do not see the professionals involved in his case would have altered the opinion on the suitability of first floor accommodation unless there were grounds for them do so. Accordingly I do not conclude that Mr Y was offered accommodation that is unsuitable because it is not on the ground floor.
  8. Mr Y says the Council should have made him a direct offer of accommodation when he was turned down for a property advertised by a Housing Association. I do not agree. Mr Y made a bid for the property in question. The Council considered the property was suitable for his needs and it nominated him to the housing association. The Housing Association said he did not meet its affordability checks and so the property was not offered to him. I do not see the housing associations decision not to offer him the property meant there were grounds for the Council to make Mr Y a direct offer as its decision did not alter his circumstances.

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Agreed action

  1. To remedy the injustice set out above, the Council has agreed to carry out the following actions:
  2. Within four weeks of receiving my final decision it will:
  • Pay Mr Y £1250 in recognition of him living in unsuitable accommodation for five months longer than was necessary. This figure comprises of £250 per month and considers the impact on Mr Y of having to stay at his parents’ accommodation for this extra period and the distress this caused him; and
  • Pay Mr Y £100 to acknowledge his time and trouble in pursuing a complaint.

  1. Within three months of receiving my final decision the Council will carry out a review of the IT system used by its housing allocations service to ensure there are no glitches causing delays in the consideration of medical evidence provided by applicants.
  2. The Council should provide us with evidence it has complied with the above actions.

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Final decision

  1. I have found fault with the Council for delays which caused an injustice to Mr Y. The Council has agreed with our recommendations to remedy this, and I have completed my investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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