Birmingham City Council (21 000 856)

Category : Other Categories > Commercial and contracts

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 30 Mar 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Ms X complains the Council is charging her more to rent a garage than it does council tenants and has failed to take action to prevent residents from blocking her garage. There is no evidence of fault in how the Council dealt with Ms X’s reports of residents blocking her garage. The Council is at fault in how it dealt with Ms X’s complaint which caused frustration and avoidable time and trouble to her. The Council has agreed to remedy the injustice to Ms X by making a payment of £200 and review whether it needs to take further action to stop residents blocking Ms X’s garage.

The complaint

  1. Ms X complains that the Council:
  • Is charging her more to rent a garage than it charges its own tenants which she consider to be discriminatory
  • Has failed to take sufficient action to prevent other garage users and residents from blocking the access to her garage which prevents her from using it.

Back to top

What I have investigated

  1. I have investigated events from 2020. I explain at the end of this statement why I have not investigated matters before 2020.

Back to top

The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. 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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
  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)

Back to top

How I considered this complaint

  1. I have:
  • Considered the complaint and the information provided by Ms X;
  • Made enquiries of the Council and considered the information provided;
  • Invited Ms X and the Council to comment on the draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.

Back to top

What I found

  1. The Government has published guidance on when transactions involving land and buildings are exempt from VAT. It provides that the renting of a garage or parking space is exempt from VAT provided the tenant rents their residential property and garage or parking space from the same landlord.
  2. The Council has a three stage complaints procedure:
  • Pre complaint – the Council will try to resolve the complaint when it is made aware of the issue.
  • Stage 1 – the service will investigate the complaint and respond within 15 working days.
  • Stage 2 – the complaint will be looked at an independent council officer who will respond within 20 working days.

What happened

  1. Ms X rents her property from a housing association. She also rents a garage from the Council.
  2. Ms X says she has been complaining to the Council since 2013 about cars blocking access to her garage. In early October 2020 Ms X made a complaint to the Council. She said that she had made numerous complaints to the Council and police about a resident blocking her garage but it had failed to take any action. She also said the garage was in a state of disrepair. The Council acknowledged Ms X’s complaint and said it would respond within 15 working days.
  3. The Council responded to Ms X on 5 November 2020 by email and apologised for the delay. The Council has said the delay was because it wrongly categorised Ms X’s complaint. The Council advised it had passed Ms X’s complaint to the relevant team to look at potential enforcement action. The Council said it would also contact the garages team to see if any improvement work on the garages was to be carried out. The Council said Ms X could ask for a review if she was unhappy with how the Council had dealt with her complaint and it would send her a final response within 20 working days.
  4. The Council sent a newsletter to residents asking them not to block access to the garages.
  5. On 8 November 2020 Ms X requested her complaint be escalated to the next stage as it had not been resolved. The Council has said it did not respond as Ms X’s email was allocated to her closed complaint. Ms X sent further emails asking for a response in February and June 2021. Ms X then made a complaint to the Ombudsman and we referred her complaint to the Council to consider.
  6. The Council responded to Ms X on 23 July 2021. It said that notices will be placed on all garages and delivered to local residents asking them not to block access to garages. The Council has provided copies of these notices. Officers had also spoken to the resident Ms X said was blocking her access and told him not to park in the garage area. The Council said it had completed the complaints procedure.
  7. Ms X continued to complain to the Council. In these complaints she said the resident continued to block her access, the Council was unfairly charging her more than a council tenant and had not carried out any improvements to the garages. Ms X said she wanted a refund of her rent.
  8. In September 2021 the Council advised Ms X that her complaint had been passed to the garages team. The garages team sent further responses in September and November 2021. Ms X continued to complain that the Council was failing to take action to prevent the resident from blocking her garage and that she was being charged more rent than a council tenant.
  9. The Council charges its tenants and leaseholders who pay ground rent to the Council a fee of £10.83 per week and private tenants, owner occupiers and other leaseholders a fee of £13.00 per week. The Council does not charge VAT to its tenants and leaseholders which accounts for the difference in the fees.
  10. I asked in what circumstances the Council would consider a traffic regulation order so it could impose and enforce parking restrictions in its estate car parks to prevent the blocking of garages. The Council has said it would not consider parking restrictions due to the costs of implementation and enforcement. This is because it has only received one other complaint about parking on the estate. it also considers a traffic regulation order would not be appropriate if unrelated to the highway.



  1. There is no evidence of fault in the Council’s decision to charge Ms X more rent for her garage than a council tenant. This is in accordance with the Government’s guidance which provides that only tenants who rent their properties from the Council are exempt from VAT when renting garages in conjunction with their properties. As Ms X rents from a housing association she is not exempt from VAT on the rent for her garage.
  2. The Council is also entitled to raise its rent charges and there is no fault in its decision to do this annually.

Blocking of garages

  1. The evidence shows the Council asked residents not to block the access to the garages and spoke to the resident who was blocking the access. So, the Council is not at fault as it acted on Ms X’s complaints. But the Council should review the position and decide if it needs to take any further action in view of Ms X’s reports in December 2021 and January 2022 that the resident continues to block her garage.
  2. I understand Ms X wants the Council to take more stringent action to prevent the blocking of her garage. She considers the Council should consider the blocking of her garage to be harassment and anti social behaviour. She also considers the Council should take action under a person’s tenancy agreement for blocking her garage as they are a council tenant. The Council should take proportionate action so its initial action in asking residents not to block the garages is appropriate. It should review whether further action is necessary in light of Ms X’s ongoing reports to see if it can resolve the matter. We do not have jurisdiction to investigate the Council’s actions as a social landlord. So I cannot come to any view on whether the Council should take action against a person blocking Ms X’s garage under the tenancy agreement.
  3. The Council has explained why it is not appropriate to make a traffic regulation order and impose and enforce parking restrictions. I find no fault as the Council has considered the matter and explained its reasons.
  4. Ms X is seeking a refund of her rent for her garage as she says she cannot use it due to residents blocking it. I do not have grounds to recommend the Council refunds Ms X’s rent as I consider the Council has taken appropriate action in response to Ms X’s complaints of a resident blocking her garage.


  1. I have not seen any evidence to show how the Council dealt with Ms X’s request for repairs. It is not proportionate to investigate the matter further as there is no evidence to show a lack of repairs prevented Ms X from using her garage. But the Council should review Ms X’s request for repairs and consider if any repairs are necessary in order to resolve this matter.


  1. The Council is at fault in how it dealt with Ms X’s complaint as it failed to follow its complaints procedure. Ms X’s complaint of October 2020 was really a service request and should have been dealt with as a pre-complaint. The Council’s response of November 2020 did not explain at what stage the Council was considering the complaint but it appears to be a stage one response. The Council’s response of July 2021 appears to be a stage two response as it refers to the final response. However, it was dealt with by the same officer who responded at stage one. In accordance with the Council’s complaints procedure stage two should have been dealt with by an independent officer. Had the Council correctly followed its procedure, it is likely the Council would have provided a more comprehensive response to Ms X’s complaint. Ms X could then have been clear about the action the Council had taken and any action it would take
  2. The Council delayed by just over a week in responding to Ms X’s complaint at stage one. It delayed by seven months in responding to Ms X’s stage two complaint. Even taking into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic this is an excessive amount of time and is fault. This delay caused frustration to Ms X and put her to avoidable time and trouble in having to chase the Council for a response and in contacting the Ombudsman. The Council should remedy this injustice.

Back to top

Agreed action

  1. That the Council:
      1. Sends a written apology to Ms X and makes a payment of £200 to acknowledge the frustration and avoidable time and trouble caused by the delay in dealing with her complaint and in not following the complaints procedure.
      2. Reviews whether it should take further action to stop residents blocking Ms X’s garage in light of her reports of ongoing problems.
      3. Review whether repairs to Ms X’s garage are necessary.
      4. By training or other means, remind officers of the requirements of the Council’s complaints procedure to ensure complaints are considered in accordance with it.
  2. The Council should take the action at a) b) and c) within one month of my final decision. The Council should take the action at d) within two months of my final decision.

Back to top

Final decision

  1. There is no evidence of fault in how the Council dealt with Ms X’s reports of residents blocking her garage. The Council is at fault in how it dealt with Ms X’s complaint which caused frustration and avoidable time and trouble to her. The Council has agreed to remedy this injustice in an appropriate and proportionate way so I have completed my investigation.

Back to top

Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate

  1. Ms X says she has made complaints to the Council about residents blocking her garage since 2013 and 2016. This complaint is late and I do not consider there are good reasons to exercise discretion to investigate events between 2013-2016 and 2020.

Back to top

Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

Print this page

LGO logogram

Review your privacy settings

Required cookies

These cookies enable the website to function properly. You can only disable these by changing your browser preferences, but this will affect how the website performs.

View required cookies

Analytical cookies

Google Analytics cookies help us improve the performance of the website by understanding how visitors use the site.
We recommend you set these 'ON'.

View analytical cookies

In using Google Analytics, we do not collect or store personal information that could identify you (for example your name or address). We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data. Google has developed a tool to help you opt out of Google Analytics cookies.

Privacy settings