Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 27 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint that his temporary accommodation is not suitable. This is because it was reasonable to expect Mr B to use his right of appeal to the county court and to ask the Council to review his complaint. It is unlikely an investigation by the Ombudsman would achieve more for Mr B.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr B, complained that his temporary accommodation is not suitable for him and his family.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also restricts what we can investigate.
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
- 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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely we would find fault, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
- it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information Mr B gave to us and the Council’s response to his complaint. I have invited Mr B to comment on my draft decision.
What I found
- Mr B first contacted us in September 2017. He told us the Council had placed him in temporary accommodation where he had lived with his family for over a year. Mr B says there were repairs needed to the property. He told us the Council has not carried out a review of his case. He says the house is cold and he is worried about the health and safety of his children.
- Mr B told us he wants the Council to allow him to bid for a three-bedroom home and to do the repairs in his current home.
- We must give the Council an opportunity to reply to complaints before we take them further. We sent Mr B’s complaint to the Council in September 2017. The Council has sent us a copy of its October 2017 reply to Mr B’s complaint. The Council said Mr B had asked for a review of the suitability of his temporary accommodation. In November 2016 the Council decided the accommodation was suitable. The Council said it had told Mr B he could appeal the decision to the county court.
- If he disagreed with the Council’s decision, it was reasonable to expect Mr B to get advice about taking an appeal to the county court. That is because this is the method the law provides for people to use if they wish to challenge the Council’s decision. The court has powers which the Ombudsman does not have to quash, vary or confirm the Council’s decision.
- In its reply to Mr B’s complaint the Council said it had again reviewed the suitability of Mr B’s temporary accommodation in July 2017. It decided the accommodation was still suitable. The Council it had arranged for the repairs which were the landlord’s responsibility to be done. The Council told Mr B he could search for a new home himself which may prove quicker than waiting for the Council to help him. That was because the Council does not have many properties available. The Council said it may be possible for Mr B to get accommodation under the Private Rented Sector Scheme. The Council said Mr B had joined its Choice Based Lettings Scheme and could bid for three-bedroom properties. But the Council told Mr B it only had very limited properties and there is a high demand for them. The Council said Mr B could take his complaint to the next stage of its complaints process if he was unhappy with its response.
- The Council says it heard nothing more from Mr B. But Mr B told us he did not receive the Council’s reply to his complaint. The Council told us it has been contacting Mr B by email. So, if he has changed his email address, he will need to update it on his on-line housing application. The Council says if Mr B can show he did not receive the Council’s reply to his complaint, he can still ask for another review. It is reasonable to expect Mr B to ask the Council to review his complaint because the Council is best placed to resolve it. It is unlikely an investigation by the Ombudsman would achieve more for Mr B because the Council says he can bid for three-bedroom houses (which is what he said he wanted) and the Council says the repairs which are the landlord’s responsibility are done.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it was reasonable to expect Mr B to use his right of appeal to the county court and to ask the Council to review his complaint. It is unlikely an investigation by the Ombudsman would achieve more for Mr B.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman