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Charnwood Borough Council (21 007 074)

Category : Housing > Council house sales and leaseholders

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 24 Oct 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this compliant about the Council not disclosing property details regarding a ‘Right to Buy’ application. This is because the Council has offered a suitable remedy and further investigation would not lead to a different outcome.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Ms X, says the council did not disclose the construction type of the property as it should have. During her ‘Right to Buy’ application, Ms X says she paid non-refundable legal fees that she could not recover when the property could not be mortgaged through a regular lender. As a result of the unsuccessful application, Ms X would like the Council to reassess her priority on the housing register and reimburse the legal fees incurred.

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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:
    • the council has offered a fair remedy, or
    • 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 the complainant including her comments in response to my draft decision. I also considered information provided by the Council and the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. In February 2017, the Council advised that all ‘Right to Buy’ applicants would be notified that the property they were considering purchasing is of a non-traditional construction type.
  2. Ms X, through the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme, set out to purchase her property from the Council and she acquired the professional services of a mortgage advisor and solicitor.
  3. In November 2020, the Council sent an offer letter to Ms X, however it did not advise Ms X of the property construction type as it should have. Ms X only became aware of the construction type in February 2021 when the mortgage lender rejected her application.
  4. It is Ms X’s choice to no longer continue with the purchase of the property, but had the Council advised Ms X of the construction type, she could have instead sought a specialist lender. Because it did not, Ms X pursued a regular lender and when her application was rejected, she still owed fees to the mortgage advisor and solicitor.
  5. The Council reimbursed Ms X £600 for the legal fees she incurred so she is no longer out of pocket for these expenses. It also compensated Ms X £150 in recognition of the inconvenience and effort afforded on the matter. This is a fair remedy for the complaint. Ms X had also requested that the Council increase her priority on the housing register but that would not be an appropriate remedy because there is no link between the error with the right to buy process and the housing application. In addition, the Council can only award housing priority based on the housing allocation policy.
  6. Although Ms X said the bank removed the marker from her credit file, she says it is still there on some of her credit reports. This means that it hasn’t yet been updated by all the credit reference agencies. Such markers remain on an individual’s credit report for up two years, and credit scoring models do not see or consider them for that total duration. It is therefore unlikely to have a significant impact on her access to credit or the rates that she would be offered. As this does not represent a significant injustice, it is not something we will investigate further.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because the Council has already offered a suitable remedy and further investigation would not lead to a different outcome.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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