Council to pay family with disabilities £2k compensation over ‘unsuitable’ housing

It took eight months for Enfield Council to relocate the family from the mouldy property, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

Enfield Civic Centre
Enfield Civic Centre

A family that lived in “unsuitable interim accommodation” due to damp and mould will receive £2,150 compensation from Enfield Council.

A Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report detailed the treatment of a father – referred to anonymously as ‘Mr X’ – and his child, both of whom have disabilities. 

Mr X declared himself and his family as homeless and was granted relief duty and provided with interim accommodation from the council in July 2023, in a property outside the borough. 

But Mr X complained about the condition of the property “immediately after moving in” as it was mouldy and damp and a “very long way” from his child’s school. The school was an hour-and-a-half’s travel away. 

The report stated a case officer did not respond to “an important email” on the disrepair from Mr X straight away, which the council acknowledged, and instead it wasn’t until last August, when the school raised concerns, that the council was first made aware there were problems. 

In November the council visited the property and later in January this year agreed it was unsuitable.

However, the ombudsman stated: “The council could reasonably have reached its view considerably sooner than January.”

A council spokesperson said the local authority accepted the ombudsman’s findings and had agreed to the procedural review recommendations made in the report.

In February, the council accepted the main housing duty and, in March, Mr X and his family were moved to a different property. 

The ombudsman told the council to apologise for the delay in deciding the property was unsuitable, for failing to tell Mr X it could help with storing his personal belongings, and for failing to deal with his application within statutory timeframes. The council also agreed to pay the £2,150 compensation.

The council’s spokesperson mentioned the “considerable shortage of properties in London” as a hindrance to being able to house people locally, and has introduced “national placements”. 

They said: “Our priority is to find a suitable, permanent home for families to ensure that people do not live for protracted periods in temporary accommodation or hotels which are unsuitable and unaffordable.

“The scale of homelessness and impact on budgets mean we must manage these pressures whilst ensuring that homeless families are provided with appropriate housing.

“The demand for our services means that responses are not always immediate but we will prioritise dealing with issues of damp and mould by taking action with landlords and we always seek to minimise uncertainty for residents.”

They concluded saying landlords had a duty to provide “safe and decent homes” and ones that didn’t would be “robustly” pursued by the council.

The spokesperson also referred to a damp and mould taskforce, which was set up in November, and the council’s “clear policy” on dealing with mould and condensation as a means of enforcement.

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