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Ombudsman criticises council after couple forced to live in unsuitable interim accommodation for 19 months

Nottingham City Council has agreed to pay a couple £2,250 after an investigation of a housing case by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

Mr X and Ms Y are to receive £1,900 for the distress caused by placing them in unsuitable interim accommodation for 19 months, £150 compensation for the council’s failure to arrange interim accommodation when their removal was brought forward and £100 for delay in dealing with their complaints.

The Ombudsman report - issued in July but published this month - said Nottingham would also apologise and review its procedures on the suitability of interim accommodation.

Mr X complained that the council wrongly revoked a housing improvement notice issued in January 2019 for his private rented property, delayed in reinspecting the property and then failed to serve a new housing improvement notice.

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As a result the landlord enforced a section 21 notice and evicted Mr X and his family.

He also complained that the council wrongly told him to remain in the property until he was evicted, leaving him to incur bailiff fees of £425.

Other complaints included that Nottingham failed to book removals and storage as promised for the eviction date, and failed to provide interim accommodation so that Mr X had to pay for a hotel.

The Ombudsman said in late 2018 Mr X contacted the council to report the property was in disrepair.

His landlord then served a section 21 notice to end their tenancy but the council then served an improvement notice so rendering the section 21 notice invalid.

The landlord appealed and the council decided it could not defend the notice. which it revoked later substituting a schedule of works on the landlord

But the landlord served a further section 21 notice following the revocation of the improvement notice and Mr X and his family were evicted in August 2019.

The Ombudsman said the council admitted an error in serving the improvement notice and that the time between the revocation of the improvement notice and the schedule of works was too long.

Mr X and Ms Y applied to the council for accommodation and a series of complex disputes ensued over the suitability of what was offered.

Examining the various complaint the Ombudsman said the council was not at fault for revoking the improvement notice and found it did not tell Mr X and Ms Y to stay in the property resulting in the  eviction costs.

The Ombudsman further found Nottingham was not at fault for reducing their priority on the housing register.

It was though at fault for not providing interim accommodation when the couple’s removals were brought forward and on the day they were evicted.

Nottingham was also held at fault for providing unsuitable interim accommodation.

The council has been contacted for comment.

Mark Smulian

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