London Borough Of Brent (18 007 388)

Category : Housing > Council house sales and leaseholders

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 15 Nov 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr W complains the Council did not tell him about a shared equity scheme. Mr W says as a result he was not able to apply for the scheme and missed out on the opportunity. Mr W also complains the Council has not offered him a replacement property. The Ombudsman finds no evidence of fault with the Council’s actions.

The complaint

  1. Mr W complains the Council did not tell him about the Council’s shared equity scheme. As a result, Mr W was unable to apply for it and missed out on the opportunity. Mr W also complains the Council has not offered him a replacement property.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. 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)
  2. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the information Mr W and the Council provided. I have also considered relevant policies and guidance.
  2. I have sent Mr W and the Council a draft decision and considered their comments.

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What I found

  1. Mr W owns a property in an area the Council had given planning consent to be redeveloped. Mr W bought the property in 2008 and the Council wants to buy this property from Mr W.
  2. Mr W had moved out of his property in 2015 due to his wife’s medical needs. Mr X said he had informed the Council of his rental address. As of 2018, Mr W had not returned to live in his property.
  3. In February 2015, the Council sent a letter to Mr W’s property which informed him of the redevelopment and of the opportunity to register an interest in being considered for a shared equity swap. The letter noted there were five properties available for the swap.
  4. The letter outlined the Council would only consider resident leaseholders as eligible for the shared equity swap. The letter also said further priorities may be applied if there is high demand, including the length of time in occupation.
  5. In May 2017, the Council sent another letter to Mr W’s property. This letter again advised of the shared equity opportunity and the need to register interest with the Council.
  6. The Council also said it sent out a further two letters in 2015 and 2017. I have not seen evidence of these letters.
  7. Mr W said he was not made aware of the shared equity opportunities until September 2017 during a meeting with the Council.
  8. The Council said Mr W did not qualify for the shared equity swap as he was not a permanent resident leaseholder as he had moved out of the property in 2015. Mr W said his circumstances were exceptional because he had to move out due to his wife’s medical needs.
  9. The Council also explained how the available equity swap properties had been allocated. It said it had ranked the applicants firstly by the longest time in occupation. Therefore, the five available properties were offered to leaseholders who had been resident within the area between 1960 to 1990. As Mr W bought his property in 2008, he would not have been offered a property.
  10. Mr W said if the Council could not offer a shared equity swap then he wants the Council to provide a replacement property.

Analysis

  1. The Council has provided evidence it sent two letters to Mr W’s property which notified him about the shared equity scheme. Mr W states he did not receive the letters and therefore the Council had not informed him about the shared equity opportunity.
  2. The Council does not need to provide proof of delivery and in this instance, they have provided evidence two letters were sent to Mr W’s property. These letters contained information about the shared equity scheme, it’s eligibility criteria, and the need for residents to register interest. Therefore, at this stage, I am satisfied from the evidence the Council had provided information about the shared equity scheme to Mr W.
  3. Mr W also says the Council should have sent the letters to his rental address as the Council knew he had moved out of his property. The Council has explained the shared equity swap was only available to permanent resident leaseholders. For this reason, it does not appear reasonable to me to expect the Council to have sent letters to owners who did not reside in their properties. This is because they would not have been eligible for the swap and so there was no need to inform them about the scheme.
  4. In any case, it appears from the evidence Mr W would not have been offered an equity swap property. The Council has explained there were only five properties available for an equity swap. It also said these available properties were offered to applicants who were residents in the area between 1960 and 1990.
  5. Mr W bought his property in 2008. This therefore suggests that even if Mr W had applied for the scheme, the Council would not have offered him a shared equity swap as he would not have been ranked within the top five based on the occupancy criteria.
  6. The Council has also provided evidence it is working with Mr W to reach an agreeable solution. Mr W wants the Council to provide him with an alternative property but there is no evidence the Council has an obligation to do so. The Council has agreed to support Mr W in finding a suitable property, either on the open market or within the Council’s own housing stock. In the circumstances, the Council’s actions are appropriate.

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Final decision

  1. I do not find any evidence of fault in the way the Council informed Mr W about the shared equity scheme. I also do not find any evidence of fault with the Council for not offering Mr W a replacement property. I have completed my investigation.

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Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate

  1. Mr W said the Council did not respond to his queries and did not update him on the situation between 2015 and 2016.
  2. Generally, the Ombudsman expects people to complain within 12 months of when they first became aware of the matter. I have not exercised discretion to consider these matters as I can see no good reason why Mr W could not have complained about these matters sooner.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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