The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: There is no fault in the way the Council dealt with Ms B’s complaint about the condition of her property.
- Ms B complains that Maidstone Borough Council (the Council):
- housed her in unsuitable temporary accommodation in 2013;
- threatened her with eviction from that property;
- has failed to deal with problems with her current property (a housing association property) such as poor ventilation and overheating.
What I have investigated
- I have only investigated part c) of her complaint. The events in parts a) and b) are too old to investigate now. I consider it was reasonable for Mrs B to have complained about these matters at an earlier stage.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. She must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, she may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1))
- 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))
- The Ombudsman cannot normally investigate late complaints unless she decides there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to the Ombudsman about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the complaint and the documents provided by the complainant made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council provided. I have also given the Council and the complainant the chance to comment on a draft of my decision
What I found
- When a complaint is made about the condition of housing in its area, a Council has a duty to inspect the properties to assess if any hazards exist. If a Council identifies any category one hazards it has to take action to ensure the situation is rectified. Category one hazards include issues such as dangerous wiring, leaking roof, dangerous boiler.
- Ms B was housed in her current property on 9 December 2013 after a period in temporary accommodation. It is a housing association property and she lives on the second floor. She experienced problems with building work adjacent to the block in 2014, a flood in the upper floor flats, the lift not working, the size of the lift, poor access, flooding courtyard, stuffy too hot environment and lack of ventilation.
- In May 2015 she complained to the Council about the lack of ventilation. An environmental health officer visited her on 12 May 2015. He noted the window in the living room was at a high level but could be opened and kept open using a block of wood. The other floor to ceiling windows also had openers and there were extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom. He said he could not take action because the flat had natural light and ventilation and there were no category one hazards or significant category 2 hazards. Although it was not ideal there was no action he could take and she would not qualify to go on the housing register for this reason.
- Ms B complained again to the Council via her MP. The Council responded in December 2015 but did not uphold her complaint. She complained to the Ombudsman.
- The Council can only take action in respect of housing conditions of a privately rented or housing association property if it finds a category one hazard. The Council visited the property and inspected throughout but it did not find any category one hazards, so it cannot take any action.
- Furthermore, as there are no category one hazards in the flat, Ms B cannot apply to move to a different property on the basis of the condition of her current property: the Council considers it is suitable for her.
- I cannot identify any fault in the way the Council has dealt with this matter. I realise Ms B disagrees with the outcome but that does not mean the decision was wrongly made.
- In respect of the other issues she needs to take them up with her landlord, the housing association.
- I have completed my investigation into this complaint as I am unable to find fault causing injustice in the actions of the Council towards Ms B.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman