Mother and disabled son win council apology after being housed next to violent neighbours from hell
A homeless mother and her severely autistic son have won compensation and an official apology after they were threatened by neighbours in the block the council housed them in.
The local government ombudsman has ordered Brighton and Hove City Council to publicly discuss the outcome of its investigation as well as paying the mother £1,000.
It found she was caused injustice by being left in the out of area ex-council flat for more than two months, as well as taking six months to reimburse storage charges and handling her complaint badly.
At the crux of the issue was the council’s insistence that there were no problems with noise in the block, which would have made the flat unsuitable for the son due to his serious medical issues.
The mother heard loud music and banging from the flat above when she viewed the flat, accompanied by a council officer who then flagged this up to colleagues.
But the officer responsible for leasing the flat played this down, saying that they trusted the private landlord and weren’t sure how they could find out about noise complaints.
The family moved into the flat on 4 July 2016, by which time the officer who viewed the flat had discovered there was a nine-year history of antisocial behaviour and noise coming from the upstairs neighbours, with three ASBOs issued by the council which owned the block.
The council agreed the flat was unsuitable – but as it had no others available, she was told she had to stay there until a permanent home was available the following month.
It was only when the neighbour even threatened to stab her and kill her son that the council started to look for alternative temporary accommodation.
In the end, she was able to move into a new build council home on 15 September.
By then, it became clear that the private landlord had been aware of the antisocial behaviour, and the council terminated its lease with her.
But in the meantime, the autistic son had become anxious, wetting himself and even self-harming by hitting and biting.
The mother had also paid more than £1,000 to store his sensory equipment, which she had been forced to borrow from friends and family and using her benefits, and this was not paid back by the council for more than six months because of an admin cock-up.
And her complaint was delayed when the service manager was unexpectedly absent and no measures were put in place to deal with this.
The council has now paid the mother £750 to recognise the injustice caused by its decision to leave her and her son in unsuitable temporary accommodation, £100 for the six months it took to reimburse storage charges and £150 to recognise the time and trouble caused by its delay and poor handling of her complaint.
The report will be considered by the council’s Audit and Standards Committee on 24 July and the committee will make a formal response to the Ombudsman.
Councillor Anne Meadows, chair of the council’s Housing and New Homes Committee, said: “We fully accept the Ombudsman’s findings and recommendations. We’re extremely sorry for the distress caused in this case and have apologised to the family involved.
“We’re taking action to ensure lessons are learnt from the mistakes made in this case and procedures are improved.”
She added: “There is a shortage of temporary housing in the city and, while it is no excuse, there was particular pressure at the time of the complaint was made.
“A total of 180 homes we leased from a private landlord were no longer available to us and staff were working to find new homes for families from all those properties.”
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