Ombudsman’s Report – Nottingham City Council – 05/C/02965 (19/4/07)

This was a case in which the Ombudsman investigated a complaint about the way in which Nottingham City Council allocated a house to a homelessness young single mother and her six year old daughter.  The complainant complained that the house she was offered by Nottingham was not fit to live in but was told that she would not be offered another one if she declined.  She also complained that when Nottingham failed to bring the property up to an acceptable standard she was left to carry out cleaning the unsanitary property herself.  It had also fitted an unsuitable replacement kitchen and failed to bring the garden up to an acceptable standard.  The complainant had suffered stress and anxiety due to the state of the property and as a result had taken so much sick leave that her employer terminated her employment.

The extent and nature of the repairs required are disputed and there was a significant amount of correspondence between the complainant and Nottingham about the offer of the tenancy of the property.  However, there were no records of any of the subsequent meetings that took place or any record of the property being approved as ready for inspection by a prospective tenant and the complainant was led to believe that the repairs to her property would be carried out following her signing of the lease.  Furthermore, Nottingham was unsympathetic to the complainant’s wishes and feelings about her new home.

The Ombudsman found that Nottingham had failed to bring the property and garden up to an acceptable standard for letting and it had placed unfair pressure on the complainant as a homeless person to accept a property that was not fit to live in.  This was maladministration.  It was also maladministration to fail to keep adequate records of correspondence complaints and related meetings and to fail to respond the complainant’s reasonable requests and representations.  However, the Ombudsman did not find that the way in which Nottingham had allocated the property and its failure to make it fit to live in, caused the complainant to lose her job.  The complainant had not followed proper procedure in reporting her sickness and had not been honest on more than one occasion when reporting her sickness.

It was recommended that Nottingham apologise to the complainant and pay her £2,450 to cover her loss of amenity during the relevant period, rent arrears, cleaning expenses and her time and trouble for bringing the complaint.

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