Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 25 Mar 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complained about the Council’s actions against him when it decided the eviction of his private tenant was illegal. We will not investigate this complaint, because it is unlikely we would find the Council at fault.
- Mr X complained about the Council's actions against him when it decided the eviction of his private tenant was illegal. He says it bullied, intimidated and harassed him, and its officers acted without proper authority. Mr X says the Council did not properly respond to his complaint.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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 or continue with an investigation if we believe it is unlikely we would find fault. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information Mr X provided when he complained.
- I considered information the Council provided.
- I gave Mr X the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
What I found
- Mr X, a landlord, received several notices in 2019 from the Council, relating to the property he rented out privately to a tenant. The Council served Mr X improvement notices due to works it found needed to be carried out. It served an abatement notice after Mr X is said to have turned off his tenant’s electrics. Mr X did not appeal these notices. The Council also contacted Mr X about his property being unlicensed, asking him to apply for a license. He did not do so.
- Mr X began proceedings to evict his tenant. The Council decided the eviction was illegal and told Mr X. It spoke with the bailiffs on the eviction date, in August 2019, however they went ahead with evicting the tenant under Mr X’s instruction.
- Mr X says because the tenancy was private, the Council had no authority to intervene. However, councils have powers to investigate complaints of harassment and illegal eviction. The Council was entitled to advise Mr X that it believed the eviction to be unlawful, and to try and prevent the eviction to protect the tenant’s rights. There is nothing that indicates to me that we would find the Council at fault if we investigated Mr X’s complaint. I have not seen anything that leads me to believe the Council’s officers bullied, intimidated or harassed Mr X, or that they acted without authority.
- Mr X believes it is “telling” that the Council has not since prosecuted him for the eviction. It is for the Council to decide whether to do so. The lack of such action does not evidence fault in the Council’s attempts to intervene. Should the Council decide to prosecute Mr X for the eviction, it would be reasonable for him to defend his case in court.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault in the Council’s actions.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman