Harlow District Council (09 005 422)

Category : Housing > Council house repairs

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 14 Apr 2010


Harlow District Council’s delay in repairing a ceiling leak meant that a young woman was unable to use her bedroom for 18 months.

The complaint

The Ombudsman said that the complainant’s daughter “…had to share a bed with her mother, sleep on the sofa or stay with friends. This took place during her final year at college, and had a negative impact on their family life.” He recommended the Council to pay the complainant £4,500 compensation.

‘Ms Stone’ (not her real name for legal reasons) complained that the Council delayed in carrying out repairs to her home after water penetrated her daughter’s bedroom ceiling and caused it to become unstable.

The Ombudsman found maladministration causing injustice to Ms Stone because the Council:

  • delayed unreasonably in carrying out the repairs;
  • failed to keep her informed;
  • did not deal with her Stage One complaint;
  • did not make arrangements for covering the duties of an officer who was absent on long-term sick leave; and 
  • failed to take the actions it promised.

Ms Stone’s daughter was denied use of her bedroom for 18 months and the family suffered considerable inconvenience, frustration and distress.

The Ombudsman said that, even after the officer had returned from long-term sick leave, “It appears that there was no sense of urgency from the Council in dealing with this matter despite the acknowledgement that Ms Stone had already been inconvenienced by the delays so far”.


The Ombudsman recommended the Council to pay Ms Stone £4,500 compensation, and welcomed the procedural improvements introduced by the Council as a result of this investigation.

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