Ombudsman report sees council agree to pay family of seven £6,000 after they were left to live in one bedroom flat

A Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation has found that Bromley Council did not do enough to help a family of seven when they were threatened with homelessness.

The family was given an eviction notice by their landlord in July 2019, and the council accepted it had a duty to help the family find accommodation in September that year.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the family were not evicted, and they were not offered more suitable interim accommodation until November 2020.

The complainant said the council not only failed to recognise that the accommodation was unsuitable because he was threatened with homelessness, but also that it was overcrowded.

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The complainants’ children were sleeping in the hall and kitchen due to lack of space.

Before the man complained to the Ombudsman, the council had already apologised and made a £4,000 payment to acknowledge the time the family spent in unsuitable accommodation.

This early action was commended by the Ombudsman, however the investigation found that Bromley did not do enough to ascertain the family was living in overcrowded conditions or consider early enough that the family required interim accommodation.

The report notes that had the council done this, the family would have been found to be homeless, eligible and in priority need.

Furthermore, the council did not review its prevention duty or the personalised housing plan until after the man complained.

Bromley has been asked by the Ombudsman to pay an extra £2,000 to the family to remedy the injustice caused.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Because of the lack of action by the council in this case, a family of seven had to live in a single bedroom flat for more than a year longer than they should have. That this happened during the first lockdown, when people’s movements were significantly restricted, can have only increased the distress they felt.

“While I am pleased the council has already gone some way to remedying the injustice to the family, I have asked it to pay a further £2,000 to acknowledge the effect such a degree of overcrowding will have had on the family. I hope the changes the council will also make to the way it deals with homeless issues will ensure other people are not put in the same situation.”

The London Borough of Bromley declined to comment.

Lottie Winson

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