Bristol City Council (19 018 982)

Category : Housing > Private housing

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 31 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint about the Council’s response to matters concerning his eviction from privately rented accommodation in 2016. This is because the substantive matter happened too long ago to be investigated now.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I refer to as Mr B, says the Council failed to respond to the complaints he made concerning his illegal eviction from privately rented accommodation in 2016. He says he has been complaining continuously but was just passed around between departments and that if it had done its job correctly he would have received substantial compensation.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. 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)
  3. We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  4. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. In considering the complaint I reviewed the information provided by Mr B and the Council. I gave Mr B the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. In 2016 Mr B’s private landlord evicted him from his accommodation. Mr B says the eviction was illegal.
  2. He complained to the Council about the eviction. It says it initially treated his complaint as a service request. Mr B says he complained continually to the Council but that it just passed him between departments and the complaint was never addressed.
  3. In 2018 Mr B complained again to the Council. A housing manager contacted Mr B, apologised for the long delay in him receiving an acknowledgement and reply and invited him to a face to face meeting to discuss the matter. At the meeting the Council says the officer explained to Mr B that whilst his former landlord had not necessarily acted in a legal manner, in the view of experienced officers there was insufficient evidence for the Council to pursue the case through the courts.
  4. In April 2019 Mr B complained again to the Council. It told him it was unable to respond to his original complaint about its Tenancy Relations team not taking action against his landlord because the events had happened too long ago to be effectively investigated now.
  5. However, it did uphold Mr B’s complaint about how it had handled his complaints. It acknowledged he should have received written responses and apologised for the poor service it had provided. It offered Mr B £100 in recognition of his time and trouble in pursuing matters.

Assessment

  1. The restriction highlighted at paragraph 3 applies to Mr B’s complaint. He knew in 2016 about how the Council had handled his communication concerning the eviction and I see no grounds which warrant investigating this matter now.
  2. The Council says it explained to Mr B on at least two occasions why no prosecution was undertaken against his landlord. However, it acknowledged it had provided a poor service and had not responded to his complaints. Its offer of compensation was made in recognition of Mr B’s time and trouble in pursuing his complaint but it was not meant to cover the £8,000 compensation Mr B seeks as compensation for what he lost as a result of the landlord’s actions.
  3. If Mr B wishes to complain about the Council’s response to his subject access request, we would expect him to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office about this.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the substantive matter about which Mr B complains happened too long ago to be investigated now.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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