Newcastle upon Tyne City Council (18 006 038)

Category : Housing > Other

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 27 Nov 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X complained about poor workmanship by Council contractors making improvements to her property. She says there are still unresolved issues related to the works and the matter has caused her distress. The Council is not at fault.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complained about poor workmanship by Council contractors making improvements to her property. She says there are still unresolved issues affecting her property and the matter has caused her distress. She wants the Council to address the unresolved issues and to agree to maintain the additional land she now owns next to her home.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. 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 read Mrs X’s complaint and spoke with her about it on the phone.
  2. I considered information sent to us by the Council and by Mrs X.
  3. Mrs X and the Council had the opportunity to comment on the draft decision. I considered their comments before making my final decision.

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What I found

  1. In 2017, the Council started work to make general improvements to Mrs X’s housing estate. As part of this work, the Council proposed to amend the boundary of Mrs X’s property, so her property would include an additional piece of land. Mrs X and her husband agreed to this and signed to say they agreed to the boundary amendment, taking ownership of the additional piece of land. Mrs X says they were pressurised into signing this agreement.
  2. As part of its effort to make general improvements to the estate, the Council offered to carry out home improvement works for homeowners within the boundary of their properties.
  3. Mrs X agreed for Council contractors to complete work on her property. The Council contractors completed the agreed works, but Mrs X was unhappy with the standard of work completed.
  4. In January 2018, Mrs X complained to the Council. She told the Council she was unhappy with the standard of works completed on her property. She also complained about other changes made on the wider estate.
  5. The Council acknowledged her complaint and met with her to discuss her concerns.
  6. In February 2018, the Council responded to her complaint. In the complaint response, it listed eight action points in response to her concerns about the work on her property. It said it would complete these actions within five weeks. In response to her concerns about some of the wider changes to the estate, it agreed some actions but said it could not agree to all of her requests as some works were conditions of the agreed planning permission.
  7. In April 2018, Mrs X remained unhappy with the standard of work completed. The Council met with Mrs X again to discuss the ongoing work, and then wrote to her with a list of ten further agreed actions.
  8. In July 2018, Mrs X contacted the Council again. She said the Council had not effectively addressed some of her concerns.
  9. In August 2018, the Council responded to her complaint at Stage 2. It said since her initial complaint in January, the Council had taken several actions to address her concerns. It responded to each of her points of complaint and listed the actions taken to address them. It did not uphold her complaint.
  10. In September 2018, Mrs X requested the Council escalate her complaint to Stage 3. In addition to her previous complaints, she said there was an intermittent noise which was causing her a disturbance in her property. She wanted the Council to investigate the cause of the noise and to take action to stop it from occurring. She also said her and her husband could not manage to look after the additional piece of land now in her ownership and she wanted the Council to help them to maintain it.
  11. The Council provided Mrs X with noise monitoring equipment which she had in her property for a week. The Council said there was no evidence of any intermittent noise on the recordings.
  12. In October 2018, the Council wrote to her to say there would be a delay in providing the Stage 3 response and gave her a new response deadline.
  13. In November 2018, the Council provided its Stage 3 response. It listed her points of complaint and the remedial work the Council had undertaken to address them. It reiterated its position that it could not make all the changes she requested on the wider estate as some of the issues she complained about were conditions of the planning permission. It said it had made some changes as she had requested. It said Mrs X had signed an agreement taking ownership of the additional piece of land, and at no point said she could not manage it. The Council said it had already provided her with details of its gardening service which Mrs X could access if she chose to do so. It did not uphold her complaint. It said it could not make a finding on her complaint about noise disturbance, as investigations were ongoing.
  14. The Council arranged for two of its officers to visit her property to try and witness the noise. This visit took place, but the officers did not witness the noise during the visit.
  15. Mrs X remained dissatisfied and continued to correspond with the Council over the next few months. In response to her concerns, the Council instructed its contractors to carry out further remedial work. It visited her property and confirmed it was satisfied with the standard of work completed.
  16. In March 2019, Mrs X remained dissatisfied and brought her complaint to us. She said the intermittent noise was still ongoing and the Council was refusing to help her manage the additional piece of land. She said the grassed area in front of her property was still not level and the Council were not addressing this. She also said it had told her it would clean her front step again, but this work was still outstanding.
  17. The Council told us the step was cleaned again in June 2019. It said Mrs X and her husband signed to take responsibility for the additional piece of land and it provided evidence of this. It said as Mrs X and her husband were the owners, management of the additional land was now their responsibility. It said it had provided Mrs X with details of its gardening service which they could contact if they chose to do so. It said it had taken action to level the grassed area and would keep this under review in case further action was needed within the next year. It said despite efforts, it had not been able to witness the intermittent noise and Mrs X had provided no further evidence of this. It said without further evidence, it was unable to take any further action.

Analysis

  1. When Mrs X first complained, the Council met with her to discuss her complaint. It agreed to carry out remedial works. After completion of these works, the Council met with her again and in response to ongoing concerns, agreed further actions.
  2. When Mrs X remained dissatisfied, the Council arranged further remedial work. It visited her property and was satisfied with the standard of work completed. The Council acted appropriately to understand her complaint and to address her concerns about the work on her property.
  3. The Council considered her complaints about the wider estate but was unable to make all her requested changes due to conditions of planning permission. It did make some changes in response to her concerns. The Council is not at fault.
  4. The Council has taken action to level the grassed area in front of her property. It has responded appropriately to her ongoing concerns by agreeing to keep this under review over the next year.
  5. The Council acted appropriately to try and address her complaint about noise disturbance. It provided Mrs X with noise recording equipment for a week. It sent two officers to sit in her property for a morning to try and witness the noise. Despite these efforts, the Council has been unable to witness the noise. Mrs X has provided the Council with no further evidence. The Council is not at fault.
  6. Mrs X and her husband signed to take ownership of the additional piece of land in 2017. Although she says they were pressurised into signing the agreement, I have seen no evidence of this. Mrs X and her husband now own the land, so it is their responsibility to maintain it. The Council has provided Mrs X with details of its gardening service, and Mrs X is open to use this service should she choose to do so. The Council is not at fault.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation. The Council is not at fault.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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