Family left in unaffordable flat after council denies right to appeal homelessness decision
A father who gave up his life abroad at short notice to look after his children was denied his housing rights by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation has found.
The man had been living and working abroad when the courts removed his children from the care of his ex-partner in December 2012. He returned to the UK to look after them and was placed in an unaffordable flat by the council. He and his family have been living there ever since, and have been given no opportunity to appeal.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council’s actions denied the father his rights as a homeless person whom the council had a legal duty to help. The council’s records show that when the father applied as homeless, it decided it owed him the full homeless duty. It should have sent the father a notice explaining this, but instead arranged a six-month private let without explaining the consequences if he signed for the property.
Had the council acted properly, the flat would have been temporary accommodation, and would have remained so till it made an offer of accommodation under its allocation scheme or settled accommodation under its homelessness duty. Until the council made a final decision on his homelessness application, it had a duty to provide the father and his family with interim accommodation.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said:
“The council failed to discuss the ramifications of accepting the property to the family when it arranged the private let. The council should have either explained that by accepting the flat the council would no longer have a duty towards them, or it should have offered the flat as temporary accommodation, with all the review rights that entails.
“Instead, the council effectively acted as a gatekeeper, did not give the family a homelessness decision and denied them their review rights.
“Had the council acted properly in this case, it would not have had to pay a significant sum to the private landlord to make up the difference in the rent.
“I would now urge the council to consider my report and accept its findings.”
The father made a homeless application at the end of 2012 and the council found the family a three-bedroom, privately rented flat. The father explained to the council he could not afford the £850 a month rent, but signed a six-month tenancy.
Over the next few years the rent was raised in increments to £1,025 a month, and because of the benefits cap the family’s housing benefit was reduced in the same period. In 2017 and 2018, the family received notices seeking possession because of rent arrears.
The council offered the family one room in a hostel with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. The father declined the offer.
The council has paid more than £10,000 to the landlord to cover the family’s housing benefit shortfall, but the family still lives in the unaffordable flat.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has been asked to apologise to the father and place him top of the list for each eligible property he bids for until he makes a successful bid.
The council should also pay the father £4,500 for failing to deal with his homelessness and housing applications correctly and the delay in rehousing his family to settled, affordable accommodation, and the stressful possession proceedings. The payment will also cover the arrears of £500 he still had after the council made discretionary housing payments and the time, trouble and distress the council caused him.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve a council’s processes for the wider public.
In this case, the council should tell people in its allocations scheme and housing register review decisions letters about their right to complain to the Ombudsman.
Latest News from
Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill laid in Parliament05/12/2016 12:37:21
A new complaints body will provide the public with greater confidence that their voices have been heard.
London council and care home amend policies after giving confusing information about fees18/04/2019 12:15:00
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and Moreland House care home have agreed to change their charging policies after a resident paid too much for her care, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.
Homeless family left in damp and cockroach-infested properties by London council12/04/2019 09:15:00
London Borough of Haringey did not deal properly with disrepair issues at the two properties where it placed a homeless family, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found.
Council delays leave disabled woman in unsuitable temporary accommodation for too long11/04/2019 14:15:00
A disabled woman, who had previously been sleeping rough in an airport, spent too long in temporary fourth floor accommodation provided by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
London council fails to support vulnerable mother properly05/04/2019 09:15:00
London Borough of Ealing did not carry out adequate assessments of the support a disabled mother needed when her young son moved from nursery to school, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
Thousands of vulnerable Staffordshire people deprived of their liberty without proper assessment02/04/2019 11:15:00
Staffordshire County Council’s decision not to assess some vulnerable people who may have been unlawfully deprived of their liberty has been criticised in an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
Surrey boy with special needs spent too long in inappropriate school28/03/2019 09:15:00
Surrey County Council took 15 months too long to issue a disabled boy’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, and unfairly limited his father’s ability to chase for updates, a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation has found.
Eye-removal operation was avoidable, Ombudsman finds27/03/2019 15:15:15
A man lost his eye due to NHS failures in treating an eye infection, causing him significant distress and leaving him unable to work or drive, an investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has found.