Guidance on remedies

Part 8

Subject specific guidance - Housing



Fault by councils in carrying out their duties to the homeless can cause a serious injustice. A homeless person may be forced to sleep rough if a council wrongly refuses to take a homelessness application. A homeless household may have to stay longer in unsuitable accommodation if there is unreasonable delay in deciding a homelessness application. These faults may cause significant hardship and distress because homeless people are often vulnerable and on a low income.

Corrective action

  • Take a homelessness application.
  • Issue a Personal Housing Plan.
  • Arrange suitable accommodation.
  • Issue a homelessness decision.
  • Tell an applicant about their review and appeal rights.
  • Decide an outstanding review request.

Quantifiable loss

We may recommend a council reimburses a homeless person for extra costs incurred as a direct result of fault in dealing with the homelessness application or arranging suitable accommodation. For example:

  • the reasonable additional cost of buying take-away food when there are no cooking facilities, or inadequate cooking facilities, in bed and breakfast or hostel accommodation;
  • charges to store personal belongings when a council has breached the six-week maximum limit for families in B&B and an earlier move to alternative temporary accommodation means they could have taken their belongings out of storage sooner;
  • extra travelling costs to get to school or work if a household is inappropriately placed in accommodation outside the council’s area; and
  • any outstanding charges for temporary accommodation that was clearly unsuitable for the household’s needs.

Non-quantifiable loss

Where a complainant has been deprived of suitable accommodation during what would inevitably have been a stressful period in their life, our recommendation for financial redress is likely to be in the range of £150 to £350 a month. But we may recommend a higher monthly amount in cases where the injustice is exceptional or particularly severe. We assess each case on its merits and consider the impact the fault had on the complainant and other members of their household.

We have set out below the factors we take into account, but this is not an exhaustive list.

  • The size of the accommodation – are there enough rooms for the household?
  • The condition and state of repair of the accommodation.
  • Are toilet and bathing facilities private or shared with other households?
  • Are there adequate facilities to store, prepare and cook food?
  • The age of the household members.
  • Any disabilities or vulnerabilities of the household members.

So, where a mother and three-year-old daughter had to share a bed for a month we may propose a payment of £150; but where a family of four shared one room for a month the appropriate payment may be £350.

If we are satisfied the complainant had no option but to sleep rough due to fault by a council, we are likely to recommend financial redress at the top end of the range, with an additional payment to acknowledge distress, to be assessed in line with our general guidance.

Unsuitable bed and breakfast placements

The most serious injustice is often experienced by households who stay long-term in unsuitable B&B accommodation, often far in excess of the six-week legal limit for families with children or a pregnant household member.

The law says this type of accommodation is never suitable for young people aged 16 or 17 and families with children or a pregnant household member. The Suitability of Accommodation Order 2003 says it can only be used for a maximum of six weeks for families when no other accommodation is available. We will assess financial redress in these cases by reference to the number of weeks a family has stayed in B&B beyond the point where they should have been moved. This may be earlier than the maximum six weeks. We are likely to recommend a weekly payment in the range of £100 to £200. This payment is additional to reimbursement of any specific quantifiable costs that the homeless household incurred.

Service improvements

We will recommend a wider review as part of the remedy where we find evidence of a systemic failing that is likely to have affected many other homeless applicants. For example:

  • where a council has homeless households living in temporary accommodation it has deemed unsuitable waiting for a move to suitable alternative accommodation;
  • where a council has many homeless households with children in B&B for more than six weeks;
  • where a council is taking far too long to make decisions on homelessness applications and reviews;
  • where we find staff have not properly applied or understood the law;
  • where councils use inadequate template letters which do not inform homeless applicants about their review and appeal rights;
  • where a council fails to notify decisions to accept or end a housing duty; or
  • where a council fails to review Personal Housing Plans.

We may also make the following recommendations:

  • Review the procurement policy to reduce the use of B&B and increase the supply of other types of temporary accommodation.
  • Ensure all B&B establishments have been inspected to check they meet the minimum standards set out in the law and statutory guidance.
  • Ensure officers always carry out a suitability assessment to identify the household’s needs before making a placement in B&B or other temporary accommodation.
  • Actively monitor all cases where families are in B&B to find alternative accommodation before the six-week limit is reached.
  • Amend template letters to ensure they explain the legal duties owed and notify review and appeal rights.

Context – aggravating and mitigating factors

The injustice may be greater if:

  • the complainant or a member of their household is particularly vulnerable or their human rights are impacted, for example, where a family is forced to live apart due to the council’s failure to provide suitable accommodation or where a victim of domestic abuse is placed in accommodation close to where the perpetrator lives or has associates.

The injustice may be less if:

  • the complainant’s own actions contributed to the injustice, for example, they failed to accept a suitable offer of accommodation, did not co-operate with the council, or refused to provide information or evidence the council reasonably requested to allow it to complete its enquiries.

Remedy examples

Miss X complained the council delayed reviewing its decision in relation to her homelessness application when she was trying to flee domestic abuse.
We found the council was at fault. The council initially decided Miss X was not at risk of being homeless. Miss X did not agree with the council’s decision and so requested a review. By law, the council had 56 days to complete a review.
However, the council took five months to complete the review and it overturned its initial decision. The delay caused Miss X significant distress.
We found the council did not properly consider all the information which was available before it made its initial decision, and it did not properly consider Miss X’s situation.
Remedies included:
  • apologise to Miss X and make a symbolic payment for the distress the matter caused her.
  • provide training to staff who manage homelessness applications to ensure they properly consider all information and liaise with relevant agencies before they make a decision on an application.
Mr X complained the council placed him and his family in unsuitable temporary accommodation. The council breached the six-week statutory limit for families to be placed in bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation. Injustice for the family was aggravated by them having to share this unsuitable accommodation with other households.
Our investigation identified, using our (section 26D) powers to carry out further enquiries that other families had been affected by the same fault.  
Remedies included:
  • apologise and make a significant symbolic payment for distress caused. 
  • review policy for providing B&B accommodation for families and pregnant applicants to ensure in line with regulations.
  • complete development of a temporary and emergency accommodation strategy.
  • review the complaints process to ensure manager responsible for sending response where required from more than one team and timescales adhered to.

Housing adaptations


Sometimes people with a disability need adaptations to their home, rather than a move. They may have to wait too long for the adaptations, or encounter problems during the work or after it is complete. Two council services are usually involved – children’s services or adult social care assess the need, and housing assesses the application for a Disabled Facilities Grant and may carry out or supervise the work.

Councils may also have other schemes to fund minor adaptations. Councils may require the complainant to manage the contract for the works, including confirming that works meet the required standard.

Corrective action

  • Carry out a new assessment of need.
  • Carry out agreed adaptations within a set timescale.
  • Inspect work done and arrange remedial work if needed.
  • Consider other ways of helping complainants to meet a shortfall in funding for the required work. Services other than housing may be able to make an interest-free loan or provide funds recoverable through a charge on the property.
  • Review policies to ensure effective joint working between services.

Quantifiable loss

  • Expenses caused by avoidable delay in carrying out adaptations; for example, additional care charges incurred by the complainant, the costs of hiring any disability-related equipment needed until adaptations are completed or additional expenses incurred if they have to move to alternative accommodation because their current home cannot be occupied.
  • Professional fees for a surveyor to assess remedial works, and pay for the additional works required, where these extra costs were directly caused by council fault.

Symbolic payments

Where someone has been deprived of adaptations which would have increased their independence and improved their daily life, we will usually recommend a remedy payment in the range of £150 to £350 a month. The figure should be based on the impact on the complainant or other persons affected and any carers and take the following factors into account:

  • The extent of the adaptations needed. A remedy for the impact of a delay in installing a handrail is likely to be at the lower end of the range. The impact of a delay in providing accessible bathing facilities is likely to fall at the upper end of the range.
  • The specific circumstances of the person who needs the adaptations. For example, avoidable uncertainty about when works will begin is likely to have a greater impact on someone on the autistic spectrum or who has an anxiety condition; or when time is of the essence for someone with a life-limiting illness.
  • The adequacy of current or interim arrangements. The impact of delay on someone who can access existing bathing facilities with help, and who has such help, will be less than the impact on someone who is left for a period without any access to bathing facilities.

Service improvements

If there is evidence of systemic failings which may affect others, we could recommend the organisation:

  • Improves liaison and joint working arrangements between social care and housing officers involved in assessing the disabled person’s needs and delivering Disabled Facilities Grants.
  • Puts in place a mechanism for contractors to report any difficulties they encounter while carrying out adaptation works and ensure relevant professionals are consulted before they make any variations to the approved scheme.
  • Reviews the written information it gives to applicants to explain the stages in the DFG process. 

Context – aggravating and mitigating factors

  • The injustice may be greater if other family members and carers have also been affected by the fault. Carers may struggle to manage transfers and meet the disabled person’s bathing and toileting needs while they wait for the necessary adaptations. A sibling may be disturbed at night if they continue sharing a bedroom with a disabled child who needs separate facilities. Their injustice should be considered in line with our guidance on distress.
  • The injustice may be less if the complainant has unreasonably refused contractors access to carry out remedial works or unreasonably refused consent for some works which would partly meet their needs while they seek to resolve a dispute about the scope and extent of adaptations.

Remedy examples

We found extensive delay in completing the replacement of a through floor lift for a wheelchair user with complex medical needs, who lived with their parents in the family home. There were a number of issues, including the withdrawal of the first company from the work, leaving the family without a working lift. We found the council failed to consider the daughter’s needs while the lift was out of action. The case illustrates the issues the whole family may face if there are problems completing the work.
Remedies included:
  • apology.
  • reimburse the costs incurred for accommodation including hotel costs and mileage between Mr X’s home and the accommodation.
  • reimburse the travel and equipment hire costs incurred when the family went to stay with a relative while they waited for the lift to be replaced.
  • symbolic payments.
  • consider Mr X’s request to meet with officers to discuss his family’s experience.
  • ensure information is shared with DFG applicants in writing at the start of the process about the responsibilities of the council, the county council, the contractor and the applicant.
  • remind officers of the circumstances in which they should be liaising with the county council during the DFG process, including when interim help is required while grant work is ongoing.
  • remind officers of the council’s duties under the Human Rights Act 1998 and to be mindful of them during the DFG process. 
  • remind officers investigating complaints of the our  ‘Guidance on Effective Complaint Handling for Local Authorities’ that gives advice on what to include in decision letters.

Housing allocations


Where people live, and the conditions they live in, significantly affect day-to-day life. Demand for social housing considerably outstrips supply, so fault by the council can add to the already long wait for a suitable property or mean that people are wrongly denied access to the housing register.

Corrective action

  • Backdate an application or priority award.
  • Award the correct priority or waiting time.
  • Enhance priority or waiting time (particularly appropriate if there has been a delay).
  • Carry out a medical assessment.
  • Carry out a review of a decision.
  • Allow a person to go on the housing register.
  • Where a person has missed out on a property, we may recommend the council makes a direct offer of the next suitable property available. In some cases we may recommend an ongoing payment to acknowledge the continuing impact of living in unsuitable accommodation until such time as an offer of suitable accommodation is made.

Symbolic payment

Where a complainant has had to remain in unsuitable accommodation because of fault in the housing allocation process, financial redress is likely to be in the range of £150 to £350 a month. The figure should be based on the impact on the complainant and other household members and take account of factors such as:

  • overcrowding and disrepair;
  • any specific needs arising from a disability – for example, a wheelchair user who cannot access some rooms; and
  • any particular vulnerability of the complainant or household members. So a situation where three young children had to continue sharing a bedroom would usually require a remedy at the lower end of the range; and a situation where a disabled person could not access bathing facilities would usually require a remedy at the upper end of the range.

If the complainant’s current home meets their identified needs for size, location and accessibility, it is unlikely to fit the description ‘unsuitable accommodation’. So the injustice will usually be the complainant’s lost opportunity to improve their housing situation or meet their preferences. This should be assessed in line with our guidelines on distress.

Service improvements

We will recommend service improvements where we find evidence of a systemic failing that is likely to have affected others.

For example where:

  • a housing allocations policy is ambiguous, poorly drafted or does not give reasonable preference to applicants who are entitled to it;
  • a council does not give adequate reasons for decisions or uses template letters which do not inform an applicant of the right to request a review of a decision;
  • a council takes too long to process applications or complete reviews;
  • where a council delegates decision-making on requests for medical priority to a medical adviser; and 
  • a council does not have an effective process for identifying urgent applications, such as those needing to move because of domestic abuse, whose application is supported by the police.

Context – aggravating and mitigating factors

  • The injustice is likely to be greater if the complainant or a household member is particularly vulnerable or has dependants who were also affected.
  • The injustice may be less if the complainant failed to bid on suitable properties in the period when the fault occurred

Remedy example

Mr X was a council tenant. Mr X said his accommodation was not suitable for his medical needs and so applied for an alternative house. The council’s occupational therapy team assessed Mr X, his current house and medical needs and awarded Mr X a medical priority. Mr X wanted a higher medical priority and so requested the council review its decision. Mr X complained the council took too long to respond to his request.
Our investigation found the council was at fault. It should have completed Mr X’s review within eight weeks, in line with statutory guidance, however it took 16 months to complete the review. The review did not overturn the council’s initial decision and so Mr X did not miss the opportunity to be re-housed and sooner. However, the fault caused frustration and uncertainty.
Remedies included:
  • apologise to Mr X for the delay in completing the review and for the frustration and uncertainty the matter caused him.
  • pay him a symbolic sum to recognise the frustration and uncertainty.
  • The council recognised the excessive delay in responding to Mr X’s request for a review and said there was a delay overall due to increased demand in housing. The council said it was addressing the backlog of outstanding reviews. We therefore considered other applicants who had waited too long for a response to their request for a review. The council agreed to: 

  • provide us with information about the number of requests for reviews which were currently outstanding and the average waiting time for a decision; and
  • draw up an action plan, with targets, to clear the backlog of review requests and send it to us.
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