The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr B complained the Council unreasonably pursued him about disrepair issues at a property he rents out, exaggerated the issues, failed to give him an opportunity to put his side and failed to consider his representations. There is no fault in how the Council dealt with this case.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr B, complained the Council:
- unreasonably pursued him about disrepair issues at a property he rents out;
- exaggerated the issues at the property;
- failed to give him an opportunity to put his side before sending him a notice; and
- failed to consider his representations about the causes of disrepair at the property.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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. He must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3))
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- As part of the investigation, I have:
- considered the complaint and Mr B's comments;
- made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council provided;
- considered the Housing Act 2004; and
- gave the Council and Mr B an opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
What I found
- Section 4 of the Act says if a local housing authority considers it appropriate to inspect a residential premises to decide whether any category 1 or 2 hazard exist it must arrange an inspection.
- Mr B is landlord of a property which he rents out. In May 2018 Mr B’s tenant contacted the Council about repair issues in the property. Mr B’s tenant said she had reported the issues to Mr B but he had not resolved them.
- On 11 May a Council officer visited the property and completed the housing health and safety rating system assessment. That identified various issues and noted damp and mould growth as a hazard. The Council wrote to Mr B later that day to outline the issues that needed addressing. The Council told Mr B it would revisit on 3 July. The Council told Mr B if it had to take enforcement action that would result in a charge.
- Mr B contacted the Council on 15 May. Mr B said some of the issues were the tenant’s responsibility and he had not identified any of the issues at his inspection in January. The Council acknowledged Mr B’s email on 21 May and asked for the matters to be addressed.
- A Council officer visited the property again on 3 July. The Council wrote to Mr B on 9 July to outline the outstanding repairs. The Council asked Mr B to complete the work within 21 days. The Council told Mr B failure to do that could result in enforcement proceedings.
- On 19 July Mr B told the Council works to the bathroom would take place within the next two weeks. Mr B outlined the further action he intended to take and explained why he would not be taking action in relation to some of the issues raised.
- The Council responded to Mr B on 20 July and welcomed the works he had undertaken. The Council recommended installation of thermostatic radiator valves, partly to assist in preventing and controlling condensation.
- A Council officer visited Mr B’s property on 17 September. On 18 September the Council wrote to Mr B, welcoming the works undertaken to the bathroom. The Council listed the works outstanding.
- Following further complaints from Mr B’s tenant the Council asked Mr B for an update on 8 October. The Council referred to its enforcement powers under the Housing Act 2004.
- Mr B responded on 11 October to tell the Council about the action taken. Mr B reiterated his view the tenant and her children were causing damage. The Council welcomed the work Mr B had undertaken and encouraged him to complete the remaining work so the Council could close the complaint.
- The Council contacted Mr B again on 29 October as his tenant had reported some unresolved repairs. A Council officer visited on 9 November and noted some issues. The Council contacted Mr B and provided photographs it had taken. The Council reiterated it would consider enforcement action if the issues were not resolved which would result in costs.
- Mr B provided details of works undertaken on 13 November. He also asked for a meeting. That meeting took place on 23 November. Following the meeting Mr B provided the Council with a copy of a drainage report which showed no outstanding issues. The Council contacted Mr B’s tenant who said she was happy the works at the property had been completed. The Council closed the case on 29 November.
- Mr B says the Council unreasonably pursued him about disrepair issues at a property he rents out. Mr B says the Council made unjustified allegations about the extent of the disrepair and ignored the fact his tenant had damaged the property. I understand why Mr B would have been upset about receiving contact from the Council when he considers there were no issues with the property and those that existed had been created by the tenant. However, as I said in paragraph 5, the Council can inspect a property to establish if a category 1 or category 2 hazard exists if it consider it appropriate to do so. There is no requirement for the Council to contact the landlord to ask for his comments before it visits. I therefore cannot criticise the Council for visiting Mr B’s property to carry out an inspection.
- I understand Mr B’s concern about being contacted in relation to various repairs when he says the majority of those repairs were due to the actions of his tenant. However, I am satisfied the Council’s inspection identified several issues. That included damp and mould growth which is a potential hazard. I am satisfied the Council acted appropriately in this case by taking informal action rather than formal action. While I understand this was a new experience for Mr B and I can understand why he felt threatened, I have seen no evidence the Council dealt with Mr B inappropriately.
- In reaching that view I am aware Mr B says the Council did not take into account the representations he made. However, I am satisfied the Council did because I note it responded to those concerns and explained why further action was necessary. As the Council reached that conclusion after visiting the property I am satisfied this is a judgement issue. As I said in paragraph 2, it is not my role to comment on the merits of a judgement that has been reached without fault. I have not found any evidence of fault here. In any event, I am satisfied the Council gave Mr B an opportunity to put the matters right rather than resorting to formal enforcement action. The Ombudsman would not, however, criticise the Council for outlining the possible implications of not taking action, including referring to the possibility of the Council issuing a notice and the costs associated with that. Indeed, the Ombudsman would consider it good practice for the Council to do that. As I have found no fault in how the Council dealt with Mr B I have no grounds to criticise it.
- I have completed my investigation and do not uphold the complaint.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman