Family denied housing right with ‘no grounds’ to appeal

Ombudsman finds a father was denied rights as a homelessness person, of whom the council had a legal duty to help.

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A father who gave up his life abroad at short notice to look after his children has been denied his housing rights.

A Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation has found that the man returned to the UK and was placed in ‘unaffordable’ accommodation by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

The father had been living and working abroad when the courts removed his children from the care of his ex-partner in December 2012.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found that the council’s actions denied the father his rights as a homelessness person, whom the council had a legal duty to help.

Council records show that when the father applied as homeless, it decided it owed him the full homeless duty, but failed to send a notice explaining this.

According to the investigation, the council instead arranged a six-month private let without explaining the “consequences” if he signed for the property.

The father is said to have 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, it is reported that 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 is said to have offered the family one room in a hostel with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities, which father declined.

The Ombudsman recommends that the council should offer an apology to the father, and place him top of the list for each eligible property he bids for.

The recommendations also include that the council should pay the father £4,500 for failing to deal with his homelessness and housing applications correctly.

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.”

He added: “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.”

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