Recently, without speculating too much, we have had an increase in families with large amount of goods with them which they cannot store with friends or family and due to financial constraints or affordability cannot put them in rented storage.
Local Authorities, under s211 of the Housing Act (below) have a duty to act if:
- the goods are at risk of damage or loss
- no suitable provisions have been made
- the authority has accepted a duty towards the household
The Authority is allowed to charge for storage etc. and we have seen expenses added to rent accounts to be repaid at a later date. However costs can be waived if the household has low income. The Authority is able to:
- enter the property to recover goods;
- arrange for a removal service;
- arrange for storage facilities (own or third party);
However the duty end if:
- the Authority considers there is no longer a danger of damage or loss to the goods;
- It has fulfilled duty for the household or the household does not fall into criteria for a duty;
The Authority has to inform the household in writing if it ends its duty, (though it can continue to protect your goods after discharge of duty), if it loses touch with the Household or goods are not recovered after the duty ends the Authority can dispose of the goods as long as it follows the correct procedure.
If the Authority is stating they cannot help, or will not help. Below is relevant Legislation and Ombudsman cases in regards to protection of goods. Which when sent in the correct format (as per the protocol) has resulted in the Authority taking action to protect goods in a nice and speedy fashion.
s211 Housing Act 1996
211 Protection of property of homeless persons and persons threatened with homelessness.
(1)This section applies where a local housing authority have reason to believe that—
(a)there is danger of loss of, or damage to, any personal property of an applicant by reason of his inability to protect it or deal with it, and
(b)no other suitable arrangements have been or are being made.
(2)If the authority have become subject to a duty towards the applicant under—
section 188 (interim duty to accommodate),
section 190, 193 or 195 (duties to persons found to be homeless or threatened with homelessness), or
section 200 (duties to applicant whose case is considered for referral or referred),
then, whether or not they are still subject to such a duty, they shall take reasonable steps to prevent the loss of the property or prevent or mitigate damage to it.
(3)If they have not become subject to such a duty, they may take any steps they consider reasonable for that purpose.
(4)The authority may decline to take action under this section except upon such conditions as they consider appropriate in the particular case, which may include conditions as to—
(a)the making and recovery by the authority of reasonable charges for the action taken, or
(b)the disposal by the authority, in such circumstances as may be specified, of property in relation to which they have taken action.
(5)References in this section to personal property of the applicant include personal property of any person who might reasonably be expected to reside with him.
(6)Section 212 contains provisions supplementing this section.
London Borough of Southwark (13 000 054 )
£500 for the failure to properly manage the removal of his goods (including the £250 already awarded);
Birmingham City Council (13 013 917 )
Summary: There was fault in how the Council re-calculated removal and storage charges in line with the Ombudsman’s recommendations following an earlier report. The Council agrees to make a further adjustment to the charges made to the complainant. It will refund £250 to be offset against other debt owed by the complainant.
London Borough of Newham (13 020 442 )
Summary: there was fault in the way the Council decided to end its duty to store Miss X’s belongings when she was homeless and living in temporary accommodation. This caused Miss X injustice because some belongings were not returned and others were returned in a damaged condition. The Council has agreed to provide a suitable remedy which includes financial redress for Miss X and a review of its procedures.
199/80 Strathclyde Regional Council; 200/80 City of Glasgow DC.
Compensation was awarded where the authority failed to fulfil its duty to protect moveable property
99/B/4902 Guildford BC, Housing Aid Update October 2001.
£750 was awarded where property was damaged when stored by the local authority in a garage that was flooded. However, the authority was held not to be at fault for damage caused to property because of condensation in the temporary accommodation provided for the applicant
99/A/4394 Sutton LBC.
£600 was awarded where the local authority made no arrangements for the storage of belongings of an applicant who went into hospital from bed and breakfast provided as Part 7 accommodation. The belongings were cleared from the hotel room after the applicant died, and his wife found many items to be missing.
If you have any queries or further points to add please do let us know below.Storage of belongings when homeless by Arfan Bhatti