Woman left homeless for six months by Bromley Council to be paid £850
PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 February 2020
A woman who said she was sexually assaulted after she was left “effectively street homeless” for six months will be paid £850 by the council who failed her, a government watchdog has ordered.
The woman first contacted Bromley Council in April 2018 after she was given notice to move out of the refuge she had lived in for the previous year.
The council offered her interim accommodation while her homelessness application was pending.
However, by July, the landlord issued what the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Ombudsman described as "effectively a final warning letter" to the woman, over her behaviour.
"The landlord says her conduct did not improve so asked her to leave, giving one weeks' notice," the Ombudsman's report found.
The council provided four nights of accommodation for the woman, which the authority said fulfilled its duties, telling the woman her homelessness application was still pending.
"It took the council a further six months to determine it owed a homelessness duty to Miss X in February 2019," the Ombudsman wrote.
"In that time Miss X says she was effectively street homeless and managed by sofa surfing and relying on the good will of others. She says she also encountered a serious sexual assault during this time caused by her vulnerability by having nowhere safe to stay."
In their findings, the Ombudsman states they could not find any fault with the council for cancelling the woman's interim accommodation, agreeing that the woman knew her behaviour "must not fall below a certain threshold".
It was once this accommodation was cancelled the authority erred, with the Ombudsman saying the council took too long to make a decision about her homelessness.
The woman also claimed that when she was evicted, some of her belongings were dumped in a bin outside the flat - although the landlord claimed the woman did this herself.
The Ombudsman said they could not come to a conclusion on that matter, "as the issues relate to one person's word against another".
The Ombudsman did find, however, that the landlord acting on behalf of the council was at fault by not doing a complete inventory of the woman's belongings when she moved in.
In their findings, the Ombudsman acknowledged the council had already put in place new procedures to deal with the issues raised.
The Ombudsman said since the incident, the authority had recruited more staff, introduced a new computer system and improved recording practices.
Since the complaint, the council also identified a suitable one bedroom flat in an area specified by the woman, funded travel for viewings, and arranged a removal van.
In addition, the Ombudsman ordered the council to pay the woman £100 for each month of homelessness she experienced, totalling £600.
An additional £250 would also be paid to the woman for her interim landlord's failure to complete an inventory of her belongings.
A Bromley spokesman said the authority strived to "learn from the experience".
"We have explained fully to the Ombudsman and clearly outlined what actions we have taken.
"The council prides itself on its performance in the vast majority of the thousands of cases it deals with every year.
"Inevitably, given the volumes involved, there will be times when things don't go as smoothly as we would like. We work to put things right and learn from the experience."