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London Borough of Southwark (19 018 428)

Category : Housing > Homelessness

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 18 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Miss A’s complaint about loss of and damage to her belongings. This is because it would not be unreasonable to expect Miss A to go to court if the matter is not resolved through her insurers.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Miss A, complained that she told the Council she was out of the country attending a family funeral but the Council gave her landlord permission to store her belongings. Miss A told us she subsequently found more than half of her belongings were missing and others were destroyed.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the information Miss A provided and given her an opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Miss A contacted her MP about what had happened. In its reply to Miss A’s MP the Council said Miss A had asked for a move because she felt unsafe in the area where she had been living. The Council said it had arranged for her to stay in fully furnished nightly let accommodation because there were no suitable alternatives available. The Council told Miss A’s MP, when a suitable alternative property became available on a Monday, it offered the property to her on the previous Friday. The Council said it gives 24-hour notice of a move from temporary nightly let accommodation to avoid rent liability on two properties. The Council told Miss A’s MP, when the accommodation provider contacted Miss A about her move, she was already at the airport. It says Miss A did not tell her caseworker she would not be using the temporary accommodation. The Council says in that situation the accommodation provider would store any belongings left in the temporary accommodation.
  2. The Council told Miss A’s MP Miss A should contact the accommodation provider about her belongings and make enquiries about claiming under her contents insurance cover. Miss A believes the Council should pay compensation to her because it gave permission to the accommodation provider to move her belongings.
  3. What is at issue in this case is whether the accommodation provider and the Council are liable for what happened to Miss A’s belongings. The question of whether they are liable for the loss and damage Miss A has reported, is a legal matter which the courts are the appropriate body to decide if it is not resolved through her insurers.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it would not be unreasonable to expect Miss A to go to court if the matter is not resolved through her insurers.

Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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