Torbay Council (15 010 745)

Category : Housing > Private housing

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 09 Feb 2016

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Council is not at fault in charging Mr D £300 for costs it incurred when serving a prohibition order on one of his properties. Nor is it at fault in the way it had dealt with concerns about another of his properties and responded to his complaints.

The complaint

  1. Mr D complains the Council have charged him £300 for costs associated with serving a prohibition notice on property A which he owns. He says the tenant would not allow him access to carry out the repairs and therefore the Council should not charge him. Also he complains the Council unfairly chased him to carry out works at property B which he also owns, despite him telling the Council he is not responsible for communal areas. Mr D does not believe the Council’s response to his complaints were fair as colleagues of the officer he complained about carried out the investigations.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and service failure. I have used the word fault to refer to these. The Ombudsman cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. She must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3))
  2. If the Ombudsman is satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, she can complete her investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the information provided by Mr D and the Council.
  2. Mr D and the Council had the opportunity to comment on the draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr D owns two flats, A and B which he lets out to tenants.

Flat A

  1. The Council inspected flat A. It wrote to Mr D in November, telling him the property needed some remedial works carried out. It said if it had to serve formal notices a charge of £300 will be made to cover the Council’s costs.
  2. The Council wrote again at the end of November saying it had not received a response to its previous letter. It said if it did not receive a response from Mr D within ten days it would serve a prohibition order.
  3. In February the Council wrote again to Mr D. It said it still had not received a response and a further inspection had revealed no progress had taken place with the required works. The Council told Mr D to make contact within seven days to avoid costs.
  4. The Council says it did not receive a reply from Mr D and it served a prohibition notice in May.
  5. The Council asked Mr D to attend an inspection of flat A in December. He did not attend. The Council says the prohibition order is still in place as it is unable to access the flat to see if the required works have been completed.
  6. Sections 49 & 50 Housing Act 2004 says

“49 Power to charge for certain enforcement action

(1) A local housing authority may make such reasonable charge as they consider

appropriate as a means of recovering certain administrative and other expenses incurred by them in—

(b) making a prohibition order under section 20 or 21;

(4) The expenses are, in the case of a prohibition order under section 20 or 21 of this Act, an emergency prohibition order under section 43 or a demolition order under section 265 of the Housing Act 1985, the expenses incurred in—

(a) determining whether to make the order, and

(b) serving copies of the order on persons as owners of premises.

  1. Recovery of charge under section 49

(1) This section relates to the recovery by a local housing authority of a charge made by them under section 49.

(4) In the case of—

(a) a prohibition order under section 20 or 21”

  1. The Council wrote to Mr D several times saying what would happen if Mr D did not contact them about the works required to flat A. It has no record of a response from Mr D and has served a prohibition order in accordance with the Housing Act 2004. This is something the Council is entitled to do and I cannot criticise without any administrative fault.

Flat B

  1. The Council contacted Mr D in July telling him certain work needed to done at the property regarding heating, a UPVC door and kitchen food storage facilities. Also works were required on the communal areas of the roof and stairs. Mr D replied saying he would carry out some work but he was not responsible for common areas. Also he disagreed with the requirement to carry out work to a UPVC door and kitchen food storage facilities.
  2. The Council replied saying the work he proposed for heating the flat was not satisfactory and he was required to carry out works to the UPVC door and kitchen food storage facilities. It noted his comments on other works he would be carrying out and said he needed to contact the freeholder or management company about works to the common areas.
  3. In September Mr D contacted the Council saying he would be carrying out works after the tenant left the property at the beginning of October. He also contacted the management company for the flats and told them of the Council’s concerns about works required to the common areas
  4. In November the Council wrote to the management company asking it to complete the required works to the communal stairs and the roof.
  5. The Council says it was not aware who was responsible for communal areas at Flat B when it wrote to Mr D in July. The Council says it has not served a formal notice on this property.

The Complaints procedure

  1. There are two stages to the Council’s complaints procedure:

Stage 1 the relevant service area will investigate and respond within 15 working days.

Stage 2 a senior officer in the relevant service area will investigate the complaint. The response will be reviewed by the Information Compliance Team.

  1. The Council has investigated and responded to Mr D’s complaints in accordance with its own procedure and I have seen no evidence of fault.

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Final decision

  1. There is no fault in the way the Council has dealt with issues about works required at Flats A and B which Mr D owns. Also the Council is entitled to recover reasonable costs incurred in serving the prohibition order and it processed Mr D’s complaints in accordance with its complaints procedure. I have completed my investigation.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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