Brighton & Hove City Council (17 015 905)

Category : Housing > Private housing

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 13 Feb 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint that the complainant is charged more by a hotel than his roommate. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council. In addition, the complainant could complain to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission or take action against the hotel.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr X, complains he is being discriminated against because the hotel owner charges him more rent than another resident. He also complains about the Council’s response.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and the Council’s responses. I considered comments Mr X made in response to a draft of this decision. This includes comments Mr X made by phone and in three emails.

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What I found

  1. If someone experiences unlawful discrimination from a trader or service provider then there is action the person can take. For example, they could complain to the service provider, try mediation, consider taking legal action or complain to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. The Council only has a duty to act if it provides the service.

What happened

  1. Mr X lives in a hotel. He has a roommate. Mr X complained to the Council. He said the hotel charges him £110 a week but charges his roommate £75 a week. Mr X says the hotel is discriminating against him. Mr X also says the hotel staff harass and victimise him. Mr X suggests there is racial discrimination.
  2. In response, the Council explained that it cannot control how much a hotel charges for rooms. It said the charge is a commercial matter and Mr X does not have a tenancy agreement. It said Mr X could move to different accommodation and the Council could provide housing advice. It signposted Mr X to an agency for advice about discrimination. The Council also told Mr X it would write to the hotel about his reports of harassment.
  3. Mr X is dissatisfied with the Council’s response. He complains that it did not send a signed letter. He says it did not guide him through the complaints process and it has not helped him with regards to the unequal charge for the room. He also says the Council did not tell him what court to take action in.

Assessment

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council. This is because the amount charged by a hotel is nothing to do with the Council and is purely a matter between Mr X and the hotel. The Council has acted appropriately by telling Mr X that it cannot intervene and by offering housing advice. It also explained how Mr X can get advice about discrimination. In addition, the Council has agreed to write to the hotel after Mr X reported incidents of harassment.
  2. I also will not start an investigation because Mr X could take direct action against the hotel either by making a complaint or by considering taking legal action. He could also complain to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.
  3. Mr X is unhappy because the Council did not provide a signed copy of a letter and he says it did not guide him through the complaints process. However, there have been extensive email exchanges between the Council and Mr X. I appreciate Mr X may be unhappy with the Council’s responses but there is nothing to suggest the Ombudsman needs to start an investigation.

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Final decision

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council. In addition, Mr X could complain to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission or take action against the hotel.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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