London Borough of Camden (23 007 488)

Category : Housing > Allocations

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 21 Feb 2024

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: There was no fault in how the Council decided the priority points award on Mrs K’s housing application. It properly considered her medical information in accordance with its policy. The Council delayed excessively in reviewing its decision. This caused Mrs K distress and uncertainty. The Council has agreed to remedy the injustice.

The complaint

  1. Mrs K complains that the Council:
    • did not properly consider her housing application. Specifically it did not consider how her housing is affecting her family’s health problems; and
    • took too long to respond to her complaint.
  2. Mrs K says that the Council’s shortcomings have caused her distress and frustration and left her uncertain that it has properly considered her family’s needs. Mrs K also says that she could not update her application with more medical information nor bid on properties while the Council considered her review request, and as this took so long, she was disadvantaged.

Back to top

The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word fault to refer to these. We consider whether there was fault in the way an organisation made its decision. If there was no fault in how the organisation made its decision, we cannot question the outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. 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)

Back to top

What I have and have not investigated

  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. Mrs K complains about the Council’s actions from March 2022, and did not complain to us until August 2023. However during this time, Mrs K was pursuing this with the Council via its review procedure and its complaints procedure. As such, there are good reasons why Mrs K did not complain to us sooner. I have exercised discretion to investigate the Council’s actions from March 2022.

Back to top

How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information provided by Mrs K and discussed the issues with her. I considered the information provided by the Council including its file documents. I also considered the law and guidance set out below. Both parties had the opportunity to comment on a draft of this statement. I have considered all comments received before issuing this final decision.

Back to top

What I found

The law and guidance

  1. Every local housing authority must publish an allocations scheme that sets out how it prioritises applicants, and its procedures for allocating housing. All allocations must be made in strict accordance with the published scheme. (Housing Act 1996, section 166A(1) & (14))
  2. Housing applicants can ask the council to review a wide range of decisions about their applications, including decisions about their housing priority.
  3. Statutory guidance on the allocation of accommodation says:
    • review procedures should be clear and fair with timescales for each stage of the process;
    • there should be a timescale for requesting a review - 21 days is suggested as reasonable;
    • the review should be carried out by an officer senior to the original decision maker, or by a panel not including the original decision maker;
    • reviews should normally be completed within a set deadline - 8 weeks is suggested as reasonable.

The Council’s housing allocations policy

  1. The Council’s housing allocations policy says to get housing and health related needs points, the applicant must show that:
    • Their medical condition is caused or made worse by their housing;
    • The property cannot be adapted at a reasonable cost;
    • Rehousing is likely to significantly improve their condition.
  2. A medical assessment officer will assess the health and housing needs and the Council will determine if the applicant should get additional housing points. To get points, the housing must be having a serious impact on the person’s health.
  3. The Council’s policy says it aims to assess the application within 21 days but this may be extended if there are delays in getting information from a medical professional. During this time, the application will be put on hold and the applicant will not be able to bid for properties.
  4. The policy says the applicant can request a review of a decision. It will complete reviews at stage one within 14 days. If the person remains dissatisfied, they can request a stage two review. This will be completed by an officer not involved in the original decision, within 56 days. The timescales may be extended in exceptional circumstances.

What happened

  1. Mrs K lives with her husband and two children. She rents her two-bedroom flat from the Council. The flat is on the first floor and the building has a lift. Mrs K and her children have health conditions. She says these are made worse by her housing. The Council awarded Mrs K priority because her property is overcrowded. Mrs K also submitted a medical form to the Council.
  2. The Council took five months to assess whether Mrs K had any medical priority and decided that she did not. On 11 March 2022, Mrs K asked the Council to review its decision that she had no medical priority. Mrs K sent the Council further medical evidence in April and May. I have summarised the medical evidence that Mrs K submitted below:
    • A neurologist’s letter stating that one of the children has a suspected digestive issue and skin condition, and the property is overcrowded. The son and daughter share a room. The son is being investigated for a condition which affects his behaviour and disturbs his sleep. He wakes his sister in the night.
    • A paediatric neurology report saying that the daughter has a tremor but this is well managed.
    • Medical records about the daughter’s digestive issues, the family’s housing situation and mould in the property.
    • A letter from the GP saying that Mrs K reports issues of mould, damp, and condensation in the property and this is likely to exacerbate the children’s skin and breathing conditions.
    • A supporting letter from their medical centre. Saying that Mrs K’s condition is impacted by stress and causes her knee and back pain which affects her mobility. Mrs K also has conditions that mean she needs regular access to a bathroom and this is difficult with one bathroom in the property, particularly as both children have conditions that mean they also need the bathroom more frequently and at short notice.
    • A letter from her son’s paediatric neurologist about his behaviour condition. He does not reach the criteria but has another diagnosed condition for which he has various treatments and therapies.
  3. The Council responded in September. It said:
    • Its housing allocations policy says that the impact of the property on the medical condition must be severely high to merit a medical priority award.
    • Its Housing Occupational Therapist had reviewed the medical information. It listed the medical diagnoses and also noted that there was no evidence of some of the conditions she had reported, including those that meant the family needed greater access to toilet facilities and those that reduced Mrs K’s mobility.
    • These conditions are not made worse by the housing, as there is a lift available and conditions requiring more toilet facilities are likely to occur regardless of her housing.
    • It noted that although one of her children had problems with sensory sensitivity and anxiety, he does not have a diagnosis of autism and had responded to some treatment. He was supported in school.
    • Mrs K said the lift frequently breaks down and the stairs are difficult for her. The Council said she should raise this issue with its repairs team.
    • There is no evidence that the property is unsuitable for the family’s needs. The primary issue is overcrowding.
  4. At the end of September 2022, Mrs K asked the Council to reconsider its decision at stage two of its review process. She said:
    • The Council had not considered her family’s individual circumstances but had made a generic assessment of their conditions and housing.
    • The Council had not taken into account that she has blackouts and finds it hard to stand for any amount of time due to a diagnosed condition, and the Council had issued her a travel pass on that basis. The property overheats, and there is no window in the bathroom, and this makes this condition worse.
    • The Council said Mrs K had not given information about a medical condition but she had told the Council she takes over the counter medication for this.
    • She had given evidence of another condition but the Council had overlooked this. The Council also had not taken into account how the layout and dimensions of her property affected her medical conditions.
    • The lift is frequently out of service and there are steps she cannot avoid.
    • The Council had not taken into account the impact of stress on her daughter’s medical condition and how this puts additional demand on the toilet facilities.
    • The Council had not taken into account the impact of the overcrowding on the medical conditions and that her daughter’s mental health and sleep was severely affected by having to share a room with her younger brother who has additional needs.
    • She disagreed that an applicant should have to have their medical condition severely affected in order to get additional priority under the Council’s housing allocations policy.
    • The Council had not taken into account the mould and damp in the property.
    • The Council’s decision not to award additional medical priority was not in keeping with its other policies that aim to make life easier for families with children with special educational needs.
  5. The Council responded to the stage two request on 30 June 2023. It apologised that the review had taken so long. It confirmed the earlier decision that the housing was not seriously impacting on the family’s health. It said that she could manage the stairs if the lift was not working, but as there were two lifts, it was unlikely that both would be out of service at the same time. The Council said that the temperature was likely to rise on a higher floor and that it is unclear that she had reported damp and mould in the property.
  6. Mrs K complained to the Council using its corporate complaints procedure. The council apologised that its review process had taken so long, but said it could not alter the decision not to award medical priority points.
  7. In response to my investigation the Council accepted that it delayed significantly in completing the review at both stages.
  8. I have seen the medical assessors’ reports to the Council. I have also considered the Council’s response to my investigation.
  9. The medical assessor’s notes show they considered Mrs K’s photographs of the damp and mould. The assessor decided that this was likely due to a leak that had let water into the bathroom, kitchen, and one of the bedrooms, and as such was a repairs issue. The Council considered a surveyor’s report and photographs and it assessed the impact of the repairs issue on the health of the family members. The Council made good these rooms, and applied a mould wash.
  10. The Council considered Mrs K’s psychiatry report which said that Mrs K was impacted by the children having to share a bedroom when they were too old to do so; that her son’s health conditions cause him to wake in the night and disturb his sister sleeping in the same bedroom; and by the damp mentioned above. The Council had already awarded priority points in relation to the family’s overcrowding, and had suggested Mrs K look at using the living room as bedroom or changing the bedroom arrangements.
  11. The Council says that Mrs K had not reported excessive heat to it. But the medical assessor had considered Mrs K’s medical evidence about her health condition that is exacerbated by heat. The medical evidence says that Mrs K was managing her condition well and discharged her from the specialist service. It also considered that Mrs K could ventilate her flat.
  12. The Council has further explained how it considered the impact of the bathroom arrangements on the health conditions of Mrs K and her children. The flat has a bathroom and a separate toilet. The toilet does not have hand washing facilities as these are in the bathroom.
  13. The medical assessors considered that the bathroom arrangements were not unusual and that not all members were likely to be in the house and needing the facilities at the same time. The Council considered the GP’s letter that said the lack of a hand basin in the same room as the toilet could contribute to recurrent urine infections but decided that there was not compelling evidence to suggest this had a significant impact on the family’s health.
  14. The Council says that Mrs K could bid on available properties and submit further medical information during the review process. The Council has explained that when an applicant or a member of their household appears to have a medical need it will give a provisional award of medical points while it assesses this in more detail. The applicant cannot use these points in their bidding until the Council has confirmed them. Mrs K was awarded some provisional medical points based on her son’s health needs in the summer of 2023, but the Council’s assessment did not lead it to confirm these. The Council would normally send a medical form to the applicant, but did not send this to Mrs K as it considered that it already had up to date information about the family’s health as part of the reviews. The Council acknowledged that the assessment took longer than it should have done, and during this time Mrs K could not bid on properties. However, it has confirmed that Mrs K did not miss out on properties during that time.

Back to top


  1. There is no doubt that Mrs K’s housing situation is difficult. The property is overcrowded and opposite sex children are sharing a bedroom when they are too old to do so. The Council has awarded this priority in accordance with its policy.
  2. Mrs K and her children have multiple health conditions. It is for the Council to decide whether these meets its threshold for medical priority. I only have a basis to criticise the Council if it has not properly reached its decision. This means I have looked at the Council’s decision-making to ensure it has taken all the relevant factors into account and applied its policy properly.
  3. I have checked the information provided by Mrs K against the medical assessor’s notes. The medical assessor has considered all the evidence. Their opinion was that the health conditions were not made worse by the property itself, aside from the fact that it is overcrowded. The assessment notes set out the reasons for this opinion.
  4. The Council then had to consider that assessment against its housing allocations policy. This says that the housing must be having a serious impact on their health in order to award priority points. The Council properly considered the medical assessment but decided that the housing was not seriously impacting on the family’s health conditions.
  5. Although there have been problems with water coming in, mould and damp, this is a repairs issue. The Council has reviewed the information it has regarding damp and mould in the property. It has explained that it would move tenants if the property is uninhabitable but otherwise, the issue would be handled as a repair and would not be a ground to move the applicant. In Mrs K’s case, it has taken into account that there had been mould and damp, however, this did not make the property uninhabitable and the Council was able to deal with this as a repair.
  6. Overall there was no fault by the Council in how it decided the housing priority. It awarded priority because the property is overcrowded. The medical assessor considered all of Mrs K’s evidence appropriately. The Council considered the assessment and applied its policy.
  7. There was fault by the Council when it took too long to deal with Mrs K’s requests to review its decision. It took six months to complete the first review and a further nine months to complete the second review. The delay was excessive and although the final outcome remained the same, this delay caused Mrs K distress and uncertainty. She waited a long time for the result, and with the supporting evidence had reason to believe the decision may be reversed.
  8. The Council has acknowledged that the delay was significant and says it is reviewing its processes to address this issue.
  9. Mrs K was able to bid on properties and submit further medical information while the reviews were ongoing. Applicants are not able to bid on properties while new information is being verified. Mrs K submitted new information in the summer of 2023. The Council has acknowledged that this took too long to verify and during this time Mrs K could not always bid on properties. However, Mrs K has not missed out on properties as a result of this.

Back to top

Agreed action

  1. The Council will within one month of the date of this decision:
    • Apologise to Mrs K for the time it took to complete the housing reviews.
    • Pay Mrs K £200 in recognition of the distress and uncertainty it caused by the long delays in completing the housing reviews.
  2. The Council will within three months of the date of this decision review how it deals with requests to review housing priority decisions. It should provide an updated action plan showing the actions it is taking to reduce delays and how this will be monitored.
  3. The Council should provide us with evidence it has complied with the above actions.

Back to top

Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation. There was fault by the Council causing injustice to Mrs K.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

Back to top

Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

Print this page

LGO logogram

Review your privacy settings

Required cookies

These cookies enable the website to function properly. You can only disable these by changing your browser preferences, but this will affect how the website performs.

View required cookies

Analytical cookies

Google Analytics cookies help us improve the performance of the website by understanding how visitors use the site.
We recommend you set these 'ON'.

View analytical cookies

In using Google Analytics, we do not collect or store personal information that could identify you (for example your name or address). We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data. Google has developed a tool to help you opt out of Google Analytics cookies.

Privacy settings