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25/10/2021

9 years of unsuitable accommodation – LGO award of £27,000

Our thanks to Naomi Trewinnard of Harrow Law Centre for this note of a remarkable Ombudsman decision in which LB Brent was found to have left a homeless household in wholly unsuitable temporary accommodation for 9 years – yes, 9 years. I’ve never seen an Ombudsman award of £27,000 before.  Harrow Law Centre represented the family.

Local Government Ombudsman Decision. Decision reference 20 012 006 07/09/2021 London Borough of Brent

Mr X and his family are homeless. His son, Mr Y, has a medical condition which severely affects his mobility. Prior to 2016 Mr Y could not walk. As a result of operations in 2015 and 2016 he is now able to mobilise with crutches indoors, although sometimes he also needs to use a wheelchair indoors. He needs an electric wheelchair to mobilise outdoors.

In 2012 Brent recognised that it owed a duty to secure suitable accommodation for Mr X and his family (main housing duty) and placed them in band C. This is the lowest band in their allocations scheme.

Brent placed the family in a three-storey house to meet the temporary accommodation duty. The bathrooms and bedrooms were on the first and second floors respectively. Although there was a toilet on the ground floor, it was too small for Mr Y to use with his wheelchair or crutches. Mr Y therefore had to rely on his father Mr X, to carry him upstairs to use the bathroom or access his bedroom. When he became too big for this father to carry, he used to drag himself up the stairs and had fallen down the stairs on several occasions. Mr Y could not use his wheelchair indoors as the property was not adapted. He could not use an electric wheelchair because there was nowhere at the accommodation for him to store it.

Mr X and his wife complained to the Council that the accommodation was not suitable. The Council had an Occupational Therapist report from 2010 which recommended that Mr Y needed wheelchair accessible premises with level access facilities. The Council’s District Medical Officer recommended in 2012 that the family should be moved to either ground floor or lifted accommodation.

In 2019 Mr X instructed Harrow Law Centre to request a review of the suitability of his accommodation and put in a complaint. The Council’s review panel found in 2019 that the accommodation was not suitable for the family. In December 2020 the Council eventually put Mr X in the highest priority band, but the family remained in the unsuitable temporary accommodation.

Following a complaint, the Council apologised to Mr X and offered to pay £2000 as a remedy for their having lived in unsuitable accommodation for nearly a decade. Mr X considered this insufficient and made a complaint to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman found that Brent had:

  • Failed to provide suitable temporary accommodation since 2012;
  • Failed to secure alternative suitable temporary accommodation following the finding by the Council’s review panel that the accommodation was not suitable;
  • Considered that the accommodation had never been suitable;
  • Failed to tell Mr X that he could review the suitability of the property;
  • Failed to secure suitable accommodation that is or can be adapted to be wheelchair accessible or provide step-free access.

The Ombudsman found that Brent was at fault and recommended:

  • That the Council apologise in writing to Mr X and Mr Y;
  • Pay £27,000 for the injustice to date, to be paid to My Y as he has suffered the most injustice as a result of the Council’s fault;
  • Pay £200 a month until it secures suitable temporary accommodation.

Other practical considerations:

The Ombudsman also recommended that the Council should agree a method of payment with does not impact on entitlement to any welfare benefits or otherwise disadvantage Mr X and Mr Y (as financial remedies from a local authority in application of a LGSCO decision are not covered by any disregards for means tested welfare benefits).

 

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

6 Comments

  1. Jonathan Boyle

    Perhaps if the families solicitors had issued a judicial review challenge the family would have been moved to suitable accommodation.

    Reply
    • Giles Peaker

      Can’t JR where there is a s.202 review available as a remedy – s.193 accommodation.

      Reply
      • Jonathan Boyle

        Surely you can, if the statutory review or LGSCO complaint is not an appropriate alternative remedy as it is unlikely to be in this case given the facts and as Elkundi illustrated earlier this year

        Reply
        • Giles Peaker

          Um, this was an LGSCO complaint. And why would a s.202 be ‘inappropriate’ – it is the review route! Elkundi was where the council had failed to act after a s.202 review finding of unsuitability – a completely different situation.

          Sorry, you issue a JR where the s.202 review route has not been followed first, you lose.

  2. Jonathan Boyle

    I think the family did make a review request in 2019, above you said ‘the review panel found that the accommodation was unsuitable,’ yet the family unfortunately are still in the same accommodation in 2021. Therefore, the local authority failed to act after a finding of unsuitability. So I think it probably was the same as Elkundi.

    Also there are circumstances when a s.202 review will be an inappropriate alternative remedy where the client could be murdered by the time the review was complete because of threats of violence and interim relief is necessary.

    But in most circumstances the s.202 review is the appropriate remedy.

    Reply
    • Giles Peaker

      My apologies – you are quite right on the review finding. Yes, Elkundi would apply. (Though no compensation via that route).

      I’m less convinced on the ‘urgency’ argument. S.202 review request with urgent alternative accommodation pending review required. Failure to provide that could be JR’d. Otherwise where is the decision or failure to decide to JR?

      Reply

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  1. Housing Law Update 1 November 2021 | William Flack Blog - […] Local Government Ombudsman award of £27,000 compensation after 9 years of unsuitable accommodation - see Nearly Legal  […]

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