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Sheffield City Council (19 018 682)

Category : Housing > Homelessness

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 12 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: A man complained that the Council unreasonably downgraded his priority on its Housing Register after he refused an offer of accommodation. But the Ombudsman does not have reason to start an investigation of this matter. This is because the Council has now restored the man’s priority, and it is unlikely we could achieve a better outcome for him than this.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I shall call Mr X, complained that the Council unreasonably cancelled his Band C priority on its Housing Register after he refused an offer of a property which he said was unsuitable. Mr X said that left him with no chance of making a successful bid for another property and, as a result, he would remain homeless.

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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. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start an investigation if, for example, we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mr X provided with his complaint. I also considered his comments in response to my initial views about his case. In addition, I took account of information the Council supplied in response to my enquiries about Mr X’s complaint.

What I found

  1. Mr X became homeless last year and he approached the Council for help with housing.
  2. In response the Council accepted it owed Mr X a relief duty under the Housing Act 1996. This meant it had to take reasonable steps to help him find accommodation.
  3. The Council also accepted Mr X onto its Housing Register which meant he could bid for social housing properties advertised weekly on its Property Shop website. The Council awarded Mr X Band C priority because of his homelessness.
  4. Mr X started making bids, but later he was unable to do so for a few weeks. As a result the Council make a bid on his behalf and allocated a flat to him. But Mr X was not happy about the location of the property and refused the offer.
  5. In response the Council ended its homelessness duty in Mr X’s case and downgraded his Housing Register priority to Band D.
  6. Mr X asked the Council to review its Housing Register decision on the basis the property was not suitable for him. But on review the Council concluded it was a suitable offer and upheld its decision to reduce Mr X’s priority. Mr X then complained to the Ombudsman.
  7. However, in its response to my enquiries the Council said it had reviewed Mr X’s case again and it was now willing to reinstate his Band C priority.
  8. As a result I do not see we have reason to pursue Mr X’s complaint any further.
  9. First, I am not convinced there is any sign of fault by the Council regarding its offer of a property to Mr X or its decision to reduce his Housing Register priority when he refused it.
  10. But in any case the Council has now restored Mr X’s Band C priority and I consider this has satisfactorily addressed the main issue in his complaint.
  11. In the circumstances I do not see we are likely to achieve a better outcome for Mr X than the one already provided by the Council. Therefore I consider we would not be justified in starting an investigation of his complaint.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman does not have reason to investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s decision to reduce his priority on its Housing Register after he refused an offer of accommodation. This is because the Council has now restored Mr X’s priority and it is unlikely an investigation would achieve a better outcome than this.

 

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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