The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Ms X complained the Council failed to investigate a burglary she suffered at her temporary accommodation property. I ended my investigation. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault to justify further investigation and we cannot achieve the outcome Ms X wants.
- Ms X complains the Council failed to investigate a burglary at her temporary accommodation where there were no signs of forced entry. Ms X believes the perpetrator had the keys to her accommodation. Ms X says the Council should have changed the locks at the accommodation before she moved in.
- Ms X wants the Council to compensate her for the items stolen in the burglary.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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:
- there is not enough evidence of fault to justify investigating, or
- further investigation would not lead to a different outcome, or
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
How I considered this complaint
- I spoke to Ms X about her complaint and considered information she provided.
- I considered the Council’s complaint response to Ms X.
- Ms X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on the draft decision. I considered comments before I made a final decision.
What I found
- In November 2019 Ms X the Council arranged for Ms X and her child to move into temporary accommodation. The accommodation is managed by property management company (the agent) which is responsible for repairs and maintenance of the accommodation.
- In January 2020 Ms X returned home from work one day and found her flat had been burgled. Ms X said her television, laptop, iPad and other items were missing. She reported the incident to both the police and her agent. Ms X told the agent there were no signs of any forced entry to her flat so she believed the perpetrator had keys.
- The agent attended the following day and changed Ms X’s locks. The police attended but closed its investigation shortly after taking no further action due to a lack of evidence.
- Ms X wrote to the Council to inform it of the burglary. She said that nobody had changed her locks before she moved into the property. Ms X asked the Council to compensate her for the stolen property.
- Ms X did not receive a response to her letter, so she chased the Council for a response in October 2020. Ms X received no contact from the Council so in 2021 she complaint to us. We asked the Council to respond to Ms X’s complaint.
- The Council said apologised the delay in responding to Ms X’s letters however it said it was unable to accept liability for the burglary or provide Ms X with compensation.
- There is no obligation for the Council to ensure locks are changed on temporary accommodation properties each time someone new moves into them. Criminal offences such as burglary are for the police to investigate and not the Council. The agent changed Ms X’s locks immediately and Ms X remains in the property to date. There is no evidence the property is in any way unsuitable. Therefore, there is enough not evidence of Council fault to justify investigating further and further investigation is unlikely to achieve a different outcome.
- It was Ms X’s responsibility to ensure her belongings were suitably insured and it is not the Council’s responsibility to compensate her for items stolen in a burglary. Further investigation will not achieve the outcome Ms X wants.
- The Council has apologised for failing to respond to Ms X’s letters about the matter in a timely manner. However, It is not a good use of public resources to investigate complaints about complaint procedures, if we are unable to deal with the substantive issue.
- For the reasons outlined above I ended this investigation.
- I ended this investigation because there is not enough evidence of fault to justify investigating further and we cannot achieve the outcome Ms X wants.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman