Last year the LGO saw a 13% increase (2014/15) in complaints and enquiries about housing allocations, and upheld 42% of cases where it carried out a detailed investigation.
The report throws light onto some of the stories from the LGO’s complaints, including a woman and her two children who had to spend more than two years in an overcrowded one bedroom flat.
The Localism Act, in 2012, gave councils powers to change their housing allocation schemes, aimed at helping them to better manage their waiting lists to suit local needs.
Recent government statistics show that 90% of English councils have changed their schemes. Changes usually include introducing tighter qualification requirements for applicants, including a local connection to the area.
A significant proportion of housing allocation complaints to the Ombudsman are from people denied access to their council’s housing register due to the restricted qualification requirements.
Several councils have recently had their housing allocation schemes successfully challenged in court for excluding some vulnerable groups which fall into a protected category. These groups can include the homeless, those in overcrowded accommodation and those needing to move for welfare reasons.
Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, said:
“The affects of failing to access suitable housing can be huge, and extend into other areas of people’s lives such as education and wellbeing. It is vitally important that councils get it right first time.
“In the complaints we investigate we regularly find councils at fault, so I urge them to consider the cases in our report and ask whether practices can be improved to avoid similar things happening to others.
“With demand far outstripping supply, there are difficult decisions to be made. But any changes to council allocation schemes should not disadvantage the vulnerable groups which must be given a reasonable preference by law.”
Common issues the LGO finds in housing allocations complaints include: delay in dealing with applications or a change in circumstances, decisions not in line with allocation schemes, failure to consider relevant information, and not notifying people of their right to request a review of a decision.
Article date: 27 January 2016