Leeds City Council must pay up over rent blunder

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Housing bosses threatened to kick a woman and her disabled husband out of their home – for failing to pay the rent BEFORE they moved in.

Red-faced Leeds City Council officials were forced to pay compensation to the couple after badgering them for bills they never owed.

The case was revealed in Local Government Ombudsman Anne Seex’s annual review of complaints about the council.

Ms Seex said problems started after the couple and their three children were offered a council house at the end of 2010.

Delays meant they weren’t able to move in until April 21 last year – but that didn’t stop the council demanding rent.

Ms Seex said: “Even before [the woman] moved in the council wrote saying she was in arrears with rent for the property.

“It said she owed rent from March 21 to April 13 and continued to demand payment for the next six months, ignoring letters from her and her outreach support worker.

“This was particularly worrying for the woman as she had an introductory tenancy and feared that she would lose her home because of the claimed arrears.”

Things got worse in November when the council served notice they were seeking to repossess the house.

It was only after the family, who haven’t been named, complained – and the ombudsman stepped in – that court proceedings were cancelled.

Ms Seex said: “Officers accepted that the council had been wrong to claim the rent

was in arrears and had missed many chances to put things right.

“They agreed to pay the woman £500 in recognition of her time, trouble and distress in pursuing the complaint and another about repairs.”

In a letter to council chief executive Tom Riordan she added: “I know the council has a good process for learning from complaints to avoid problems recurring.

“I hope it has been applied to this complaint.”

The complaint was one of 292 made about the council to the ombudsman last year.

In other cases a woman was wrongly banned from visiting her dying mother in a care home and a severely disabled girl was given sub-standard care and attention at school.

The council was unable to respond to a request for comment before the YEP went to press.

Prime Minster Theresa May, speaking at a Conservative campaign event held at the Shine Centre, Harehills Road, Leeds, on April 27, 2017.  Picture:  James Hardisty

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