Council Found to Have Failed Man Who was Made Homeless

His mental health was affected after being forced to pay for hotels

Front entrance of Wandsworth Customer Services

May 19, 2023

A Wandsworth resident was forced to borrow cash from family and friends to pay for hotels for more than five months after he was evicted and his local council failed to arrange interim accommodation, a watchdog has found. Wandsworth Council has been ordered to pay the man more than £8,700 after an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The man, named Mr X in the report, said the situation has significantly affected his mental and physical health. He has been left with considerable debts, he added, after borrowing cash to fund his hotel stay.

Mr X made a homelessness application to the council on October 12, 2021. He told the authority he had been served with an eviction notice by his private landlord due to significant rent arrears and he had received a court order for possession of the property.

Mr X also said he had severe depression and anxiety along with mobility difficulties. He was evicted on December 10, 2021.

The report found the council failed to accept the relief duty towards Mr X until December 20, 2021, when it should have done so “promptly” after being sent the court order. The relief duty is a local authority’s duty to help a homeless person secure accommodation for at least six months.

The report said, “The council placed a too high threshold for whether it should provide interim accommodation to Mr X. Mr X told the council in his original homelessness application that he had severe depression and anxiety and raised concerns about experiencing thoughts of ending his life.

“This was confirmed in subsequent supporting medical evidence after the council asked him to send this. On balance, I find the council would have likely offered Mr X interim accommodation in October 2021 if it had properly considered he may be in priority need against the appropriate threshold.”

The report said this meant Mr X “missed out on suitable interim accommodation arranged by the council” for five months and two weeks between October 19, 2021, and April 5, 2022, when the authority decided to end the relief duty and that he was not in priority need.

Mr X said he had to cover the cost of hotels and was at risk of street homelessness until July 30, 2022, when the council provided him with interim accommodation.

The report found the council failed to respond to Mr X’s request for housing benefits to help with hotel costs while he was homeless. It said Mr X “incurred significant hotel costs” between December 9, 2021, and April 4, 2022, and it is likely he “would not have incurred this cost if the council had arranged interim accommodation during this time, which would have likely entitled Mr X to receive housing benefit”.

It said, “Mr X had to borrow money from friends and family to cover the costs, which likely put significant strain on these relationships. Mr X told the council about this. This caused him distress and he said it meant he had to unnecessarily disclose that he was homeless.”

The ombudsman also ruled the council delayed making storage arrangements for Mr X’s belongings before his eviction and failed to consider reasonable adjustments to accommodate his disabilities when giving him technical information, including about the housing register process.

The council agreed to apologise to Mr X, pay him £8,733 in total and make service improvements. This includes £2,500 for distress he was caused and £6,233 for the loss he suffered in paying for hotels while he was without accommodation and the council failed to arrange interim accommodation for him between December 9, 2021, and April 4, 2022.

A Wandsworth Council spokesperson said: “We have accepted that some errors were made in how we handled this application and have agreed to write a letter of apology, pay compensation to the claimant and also review and improve staff training to minimise the possibility of this happening again.”

Charlotte Lilywhite - Local Democracy Reporter