Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 06 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not exercise our discretion to investigate a complaint about Council-funded building works, because it was made outside the time limit.
- The complainant, who I refer to here as Mr X, complains that roof boards were removed during improvement works to his home. He says this has negatively impacted on sound insulation in the property.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information and documents provided by Mr X and the Council. I spoke to Mr X about his complaint. Both Mr X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on an earlier draft of this statement. I considered all comments made before I reached a final decision.
What I found
- The Council contacted Mr X about a means-tested housing renewal grant scheme to renovate his property. Mr X was deemed eligible for this scheme. He and the Council agreed a schedule of works, which included insulating the roof. To install this insulation, roof boards were removed.
- The works were completed in April 2015. Mr X signed an agreement in June 2015 saying the work had been completed to his satisfaction. Mr X says he only signed the agreement so that the company who carried out the works would be paid.
- In August 2016 Mr X contacted the Council saying that the removal of roof boards meant he had lost sound insulation. However, he did not formally complain to the Council.
- In November 2016 Mr X first complained to the Ombudsman. The Council told the Ombudsman that Mr X had not formally complained. The Ombudsman advised both parties to complete the complaints procedure. The Council took Mr X’s correspondence from August 2016 as his formal complaint.
- In January 2017 Mr X completed the Council’s complaints procedure. The Council did not uphold his complaint or his appeal. The Council noted that Mr X had not complained for over a year since the completion of the works.
- In August 2017 Mr X asked the Ombudsman not to re-open his complaint because he intended to pay for a building surveyor’s report. In November 2017 Mr X asked the Ombudsman to re-open his complaint because he decided not to commission the report.
- Mr X says the gap between the completion of the works (April 2015) and his complaint to the Council (August 2016) was a “settling in” period. He says he was aware of the 12 month time limit to complain. He says he did not want to complain about one thing, only to find that there were other issues he wanted to complain about at a later date. He says he spent this 16 month period watching and monitoring.
- Mr X says that he noticed the impact of the board removal on the sound insulation after four weeks. This means he could have complained to the Council in the summer of 2015.
- The Ombudsman cannot investigate complaints that are more than 12 months after the complainant first had knowledge of the problem, unless there are good reasons to do so. In this case, Mr X says he was aware of the time limit, but did not approach the Ombudsman until over 12 months after he first became aware of the issue. However, as he had not taken steps to resolve the matter with the Council, we could not pursue the matter at that time. A further 15 months then passed until Mr X made fresh representations to the Ombudsman.
- Overall, I consider that reasonable opportunities existed for Mr X to have pursued this matter in a more timely fashion, and within the time limits laid down in law. As such, I have decided not to exercise the Ombudsman’s discretion to investigate this complaint.
- I have stopped this investigation because the complaint to the Ombudsman was made late.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman