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London Borough of Enfield (21 010 007)

Category : Housing > Homelessness

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 11 Apr 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complains about the Council’s handling of an incident at his accommodation in March 2020 when he was assaulted by a neighbour and offered Mr X support. We have found no evidence of fault in the way the Council considered these matters so are minded to complete our investigation.

The complaint

  1. I have called the complainant Mr X. He complains about the Council’s handling of an incident at his accommodation in March 2020 when he was assaulted by a neighbour. Mr X considers the Council failed to act swiftly to move the neighbour out of the building and did not help Mr X when he felt unable to return to his accommodation.
  2. Mr X says the matter and the Council’s failure to act has caused him distress, impacted on his heath, and lost him his employment. Mr X says he could not stay in his home during the Covid-19 pandemic which he needed to do as a vulnerable person with long-term illnesses.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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
  • any fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
  • any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • we could not add to any previous investigation by the organisation, 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))

  1. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have read the papers submitted by Mr X and spoken to him about the complaint. I considered the Council’s comments on the complaint and the supporting documents it provided.
  2. Mr X and the Council now have an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I will consider their comments before making a final decision.

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What I found

The Council’s Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) policy

  1. The Council’s policy says it will work with residents to resolve reports of ASB which it will investigate and take action where there is clear proven evidence. The Council will then take appropriate action. It will ensure it offers support to residents and witnesses throughout the investigation and any subsequent legal proceedings.

Events leading to the complaint

  1. This section sets out the key events in this case and is not intended to be a detailed chronology.
  2. The Council accepted a main housing duty towards Mr X in 2017 and provided him with suitable temporary accommodation in a flat at a building. The building is managed on the Council’s behalf and there is an onsite manager. In March 2020 Mr X was verbally abused and physically assaulted by a neighbour, Mr Y who lived in a flat opposite.
  3. A security guard made the manager aware of the incident as the Police wanted access to the building’s CCTV recordings. The manager told the Police of the procedure to access recordings as they were managed by a CCTV monitoring team off site. The manager spent two weeks trying to contact Mr X about the incident. When the manager made contact Mr X said he was pressing charges against Mr Y and being supported by the Police and Victim Support. The manager confirmed to Mr X he had spoken to Mr Y about the incident.
  4. In April 2020 the manager met Mr X at the building. The manager noted Mr X said he chose to stay away from his flat as he was staying with friends and feared catching Covid-19. The manager reported Mr X did not say he was staying away from his flat because of Mr Y. But decided to stay away for other reasons.
  5. In July 2020 Victim Support advised Mr X not to return to his flat until after the court hearing against Mr Y. It asked the Council if Mr X could access the flat and belongings. The manager contacted Mr X to arrange for him to visit. The manager assured Mr X there were no issues with him accessing his flat and no ongoing threats from Mr Y. The Council noted Mr X said he had decided to stay away from his flat.
  6. Mr Y was found guilty at a court case in July 2020, convicted and given a restraining order to keep away from Mr X for 12 months.
  7. On 15 July 2020 Mr X contacted the Council’s Community Safety Unit (CSU) who deal with complaints of ASB. Mr X explained he had been unable to return to his property and feared for his safety. CSU investigated the matter and reported to Victim Support who were supporting Mr X. CSU said the Council had spoken to Mr Y, given him a warning and he agreed not to approach Mr X. It confirmed to Victim Support there was no ongoing threat to Mr X from Mr Y, and it was safe for him to return to his flat. The CSU told Victim Support Mr X advised the manager he was staying away from his flat ‘as he needed to be away for some time’.
  8. A housing officer spoke to Mr Y on 21 July 2020 to discuss the case. The officer asked Mr X if he wanted rehousing elsewhere due to suggesting he did not feel safe returning to the property. The officer offered Mr X a move through the Council’s homefinder scheme, but Mr X declined. The Council’s records show Mr X did not respond to the officer’s later telephone calls.
  9. Mr X complained to the Council via his MP in August 2020 about its handling of his case and his fear of returning to the flat. Mr X wanted the Council to evict Mr Y. The Council asked Mr X again if he wanted rehousing, but Mr X declined.
  10. The Council responded to the MP’s complaint. It explained CSU’s involvement with Mr X’s case and as Mr Y had been found guilty, it would be serving him with a Notice to Quit his flat. Mr Y had received a further written warning and attended a meeting to discuss his future conduct and behaviour. Mr Y had been warned to keep away from Mr X. The Council said it would be liaising with the building manager to ensure a satisfactory risk management plan in place to deter a repeat incident taking place.
  11. The Council served Mr Y with a Notice to Quit his accommodation by September 2020. Mr X advised a CSU officer he would like to return to his property if it was safe. The Council arranged an emergency transfer move for Mr X. But Mr X said he preferred to remain with friends as he felt Mr Y should be the one to move.
  12. An officer spoke to Mr X on 16 September 2020 seeking to resolve Mr X’s concerns and housing situation. Mr X said again he wanted Mr Y evicted from his property. The officer explained the Council may find it difficult to evict Mr Y as the courts needed evidence of more than one incident to agree to it. It would also take a long time due to a backlog of court cases because of the pandemic. The officer confirmed the Council was carrying out an assessment to see if eviction was a possibility. The officer asked Mr X about possibly moving to alternative accommodation, but Mr X declined as he felt Mr Y should move.
  13. The officer spoke to Mr X on 23 September 2020. Mr X repeated his request for the Council to evict Mr Y. The officer reported legal services advised the courts were unlikely to grant a possession order against Mr Y because of the restraining order in place against him. Mr Y also had a young child living with him so the courts would be reluctant to make a child homeless.
  14. Mr X said he was more open to moving to alternative accommodation and wanted a two bedroomed property so he could have room for his child. The officer advised Mr X to update his household details on Homefinder. This was because the Council’s records noted Mr X as a single occupant which meant he was only eligible for studio sized accommodation. The officer told Mr X to look at private rented accommodation as this would help him when bidding for Council accommodation in the future. Mr X said he did not wish to move to private rented accommodation.
  15. The Council offered Mr X newly refurbished private rented accommodation in October 2020. Mr X declined the offer. The Council told Mr X at the end of October 2020 Mr Y had left his flat at the building. An officer contacted Mr X in November 2020 and advised again Mr X could return to his flat. Mr X did not return to the building.
  16. The Council offered Mr X temporary accommodation in December 2020. Mr X declined the offer several weeks later. An officer advised Mr X to either move back to his flat or take up an offer of help to move to private rented accommodation. The Council made Mr X a further offer of temporary accommodation in February 2021 and kept the offer open until April 2021 while waiting for medical evidence.

Mr X’s complaints to the Council

  1. Mr X complained to the Council in September 2020. In summary Mr X’s concerns were:
    • About the incident in March 2020.
    • The building manager’s failure to provide CCTV footage to the Police and his overall response which Mr X considered was protecting Mr Y.
    • The manager had not asked to see Mr X’s phone footage of the incident and the manager failed in the Council’s duty of care towards him and others.
    • Mr X also complained about the lack of response from the manager and CSU to his contact.
  2. The Council responded to Mr X’s concerns. It said it was sorry to hear of the incident and sympathised with the difficulties he had gone through. The Council confirmed the manager responded to the Police request for CCTV footage and advised of the procedure for contacting the monitoring team for footage. The Council told Mr X the manager had tried to contact him several times after the incident and eventually spoke to Mr X two weeks later. Mr X then said he was pressing charges against Mr Y and being supported by the Police and Victim Support. The manager told Mr X of the action he had taken including speaking to Mr Y.
  3. The manager spoke to Mr X in April 2020 who confirmed he was staying away from the flat with friends and did not want to catch Covid-19. The manager was unaware of the phone footage until August 2020 when told by a CSU officer who was then leading on the case. The manager responded to contact from Victim Support and advised there was no ongoing threat from Mr Y. The Council said the police and then CSU were dealing with the matter. It sought legal advice about the action it could take against Mr Y.
  4. The Council disagreed with Mr X’s view it had failed in its duty of care. The Council said as it was a criminal offence Mr X reported the incident to the Police who then dealt with it. Mr X received support from Victim Support and then CSU who continued to support Mr X. The Council considered the manager and CSU responded to his contact.
  5. Mr X remained unhappy with the Council’s response and complained again in October 2020. In summary Mr X considered:
    • The Council was protecting Mr Y by failing to evict him.
    • Officers did not contact Mr X after the court hearing.
    • He suffered stress and depression after the incident and the Council discriminated against him in its treatment of him.
  6. The Council responded outlining the actions of the building manager. It said it was not protecting Mr Y and sought legal advice about evicting him. But were advised of difficulties in doing so. The Council said it offered Mr X alternative accommodation in recognition of the difficult situation he was in.
  7. The Council confirmed the manager gave contact details to Victim Support and officers responded to Mr X’s contact. Mr X was also liaising with CSU and the manager about tenancy issues. When Mr X said in July 2020, he did not feel safe returning to the flat, the Council offered a move through Homefinder.
  8. The Council recognised the stress and depression Mr X suffered but confirmed it had not discriminated against him in its actions and would not do so. The Council said Mr X wanted it to move him to similar accommodation or to evict Mr Y. The Council noted it had not yet found a solution that satisfied Mr X, but this did not mean the Council had failed in its duty of care. The Council said it understood Mr X chose to stay away from his flat with friends after the incident and this coincided with the first national lockdown in March 2020. Mr X did not say he was staying away due to Mr Y. The Council confirmed the action taken to deal with Mr Y and he was no longer living at the building.
  9. Mr X remained unhappy with the Council’s response. Mr X considered the Council had taken too long to deal with the matter and the incident which impacted onto his life. Mr X said he had become a father during this time. Mr X asked the Council to rehouse him and compensate him for the trauma and psychological impact he suffered.
  10. The Council reviewed the previous responses to Mr X’s complaints. It said Mr X had not provided any further evidence, so it remained of the view reached during the complaint investigation not to uphold his concerns. The Council said it had been working with Mr X since July 2020 and made him several offers of accommodation which he declined.
  11. Mr X asked the Council to provide accommodation for himself, partner and child. Officers had asked Mr X to update his details on Homefinder. But Mr X had not done so, and the Council could not carry out a reassessment until they were provided. The Council told Mr X throughout he had the option to return to his flat. Mr X said at first in July 2020 he did not feel safe returning while Mr Y was living there. But Mr Y left in October 2020 and Mr X had not returned to his flat. The Council said it had offered him every option available, but he decided not to move or return to his flat.
  12. The Council said it offered Mr X opportunities to move, and a refund payment of any cash payments made on his rent account from 23 March 2020 up to 3 November 2020 totalling £840. The Council said it was a goodwill gesture which remained open to Mr X. The Council did not accept any liability or wrongdoing on its behalf and did not uphold Mr X’s complaints.
  13. The Council noted Mr X’s request for compensation for ‘psychological trauma’. It advised Mr X that as a crime was committed against him and the perpetrator prosecuted by the Police, he should seek compensation via a Criminal Injuries Compensation claim.
  14. The Council said as he had not taken up an offer of alternative accommodation or moved back into flat and was not paying rent, then it would have to end his tenancy. The Council asked Mr X to respond by February 2021. Mr X moved back to his flat on 1 June 2021.

The Council’s comments on the complaint

  1. The Council confirms it did not consider it unreasonable for Mr X to remain at the temporary accommodation it provided for him from 2017. This was until 15 July 2020 when Mr X first brought his concerns to its attention. Mr X contacted the CSU to explain he had been unable to return to the building and feared for his safety. An officer then spoke to Mr X about his case and offered to rehouse him elsewhere due to Mr X’s concerns about safety.
  2. The Council says it worked with Mr X to help him to move from July 2020, but he declined the accommodation offers made to him. The Council offered Mr X available properties at the time that best met his requirements from an assessment of his needs. Mr X wanted the same accommodation as his existing flat which was a studio flat in a newly refurbished block. Unfortunately, the Council did not have any similar flats available to offer Mr X.
  3. The Council says it followed its ASB policy in this case by contacting the Police for information and seeking legal advice. CSU investigated the matter by speaking to both parties and liaising with the Police, social services and building management to ensure adequate support provided to both parties. The CSU team kept in regular contact with Mr X, issued a verbal warning to Mr Y and later served a Notice to Quit his accommodation.
  4. The CSU confirms it had no concerns about Mr X’s immediate safety as he was not living at the property when he reported the matter in July 2020. There was also a restraining order in place against Mr Y at the time.
  5. The Council says it was not aware Mr X was clinically vulnerable until April 2021 when Mr X forwarded a letter saying he was. Mr X also provided medical information about an existing condition and two doctors certificates in April 2021. The Council considered the information when looking at whether it had made Mr X a suitable offer of accommodation in 2021. But Mr X moved back to his flat, so the review was unnecessary.
  6. The Council comments that although Mr X was allocated points in 2017 because he was owed the main housing duty, he has not engaged with the Council’s Homefinder scheme since to find other accommodation. The Council confirms Mr X has still not provided details to update his household details on Homefinder. So, it has been unable to reassess his needs for any accommodation.

My assessment

  1. Mr X considers the Council should have done more to help him at the time of the incident in March 2020 and ensured he could remain in his flat due to his health needs. The Council’s response to Mr X’s complaints show it has investigated his concerns. It explained its response and attempts to contact his many times in March 2020 after the incident. When Mr X did speak to the building manager in April 2020 it is reported Mr X advised he was choosing to stay away from the flat with friends due to concerns about catching Covid-19. Mr X did not say he was staying away from the flat due to concerns for his safety because of Mr Y. I have not seen any documented evidence that Mr X raised concerns with the Council about Mr Y and for his safety until July 2020.
  2. Due to the lack of documentary evidence from Mr X to show he did raise concerns and because of the time that has passed since the incident occurred, I do not consider any further investigation now will add to any previous investigation by the Council. Or that it will lead to a different finding on this point.
  3. The evidence provided does not show that Mr X gave the Council with any details of his medical conditions until April 2021 when it was looking at the suitability of accommodation he was being offered. So, the Council was unaware of any concerns Mr X may have about being clinically vulnerable during the first national lockdown in March 2020.
  4. The documents I have seen show Mr X was being supported by the Police , Victim Support, and the Council’s CSU. The Council told Mr X of the action taken with Mr Y and there was no ongoing threat to Mr X. The evidence provided shows once the Council became aware of Mr X’s concerns in July 2020 it offered to rehouse him. The Council then made several offers to Mr X which was suitable action for it to take. But Mr X chose not to accept them.
  5. The evidence provided also shows the Council followed its ASB policy in place at the time. So, I do not consider there has been any fault by the Council in its response. This is because it investigated the matter, liaised with all parties, and took action against Mr Y as the perpetrator.
  6. The Council advised Mr X to update his household details on Homefinder so it can reassess his application for accommodation. Mr X needs to take this action if he wishes to be considered for any further accommodation. The Council has also advised Mr X to claim for compensation because of the incident under Criminal Injuries Compensation scheme. As Mr X was the victim of a crime this is the appropriate action for him to take.
  7. It is unfortunate that Mr X chose to stay away from his flat. However, the Council offered Mr X opportunities to move and a refund on his cash payments for rent between March and November 2020. This is a goodwill gesture by the Council of £840. The offer remains available to Mr X should he wish to accept it. This is a suitable offer for the Council to make in the circumstances. I do not consider I can achieve anything further for Mr X.

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Draft decision

  1. Subject to further comments by Mr X and the Council, I intend to complete my investigation. I have found no evidence of fault by the Council in the way it responded to Mr X’s concerns about an incident at his accommodation in March 2020 when he was assaulted by a neighbour.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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