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Swindon Borough Council (19 018 848)

Category : Housing > Homelessness

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 24 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about £450 the complainant was charged for repairs for temporary accommodation he lived until 2017. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council and because it is a late complaint.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr X, says the Council should refund the £450 he was charged for repairs for temporary accommodation he left in 2017.

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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 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 an investigation if we believe it is unlikely we would find fault. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), 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 read the complaint and the complaint correspondence between Mr X and the Council. I looked at photographs taken at the exit inspection. I invited Mr X to comment on a draft of this decision.

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What I found

What happened

  1. Mr X lived in temporary accommodation until late 2017. The Council says it invited him to an exit inspection. Mr X says he was not invited to the inspection.
  2. I have seen photographs taken during the inspection. The photographs show dirty walls and floors. The landlord arranged a deep clean, carpet cleaning and some painting. The landlord claimed against the rent deposit agreement he had made with Mr X and the Council. The Council agreed to pay for the repairs. It paid £692 to the landlord and, in November 2017, told Mr X he would have to pay £461 for the work.
  3. In February 2018 the Council sent Mr X an invoice for £450 for the repairs. Mr X paid the bill but complained. He said he tried to keep the flat as clean as possible and the repairs were due to general wear and tear. He said he was not invited to the exit inspection.
  4. In response the Council explained it had agreed the landlord could make a claim against the deposit due to the findings of the exit inspection. It said Mr X had been invited to the inspection. It declined to refund the £450.

Assessment

  1. I will not start an investigation for the following reasons.
  2. There is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council. The Council inspected the flat and, based on the photographs, there is no suggestion of fault in its decision that the repairs were needed and the landlord had a valid claim to make against the deposit. And, under the terms of the rent deposit scheme, Mr X was required to pay for rechargeable repairs. It is unfortunate that Mr X did not get the letter inviting him to the inspection but, if he had been there, it would not have altered the condition of the flat.
  3. I also will not start an investigation because this is a late complaint. Mr X has known about the invoice since early 2018 but he did not complain to the Ombudsman until February 2020. This is significantly longer than 12 months and I have not seen any good reason to accept such a late complaint.

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Final decision

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council and because it is a late complaint.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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