Wigan Council was at fault over delays in resident's Right To Buy property purchase, watchdog finds
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A watchdog has rapped the town hall over its handling of a resident’s house purchase.
The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) upheld a complaint from a Wigan man, who said the council made administrative errors in the Right to Buy process, which delayed his purchase. He also said the council had poorly communicated with him, causing him distress, and that he was put through the time and trouble of providing documents to the council and bring his concerns to its attention.
The watchdog ruled in favour of the resident, identified only as Mr K, and said the town hall had agreed to compensate the man for the delays, distress and uncertainty caused by the situation.
The investigation said Mr K applied to buy his house under the RTB process 2019. In July 2019, the Council sent Mr K a form setting out the price to pay and the conditions of sale, including a plan of the property boundary.
Mr K told the council it made an error with the plans for the property boundary, and he claimed part of the garden was wrongly marked as belonging to the neighbouring property.
Further issues arose when Mr K disputed the council’s claims that he had later decided not to pursue action regarding the boundary issue.
Further delays were incurred over errors in the council’s documents about whether the property had solar panels, which it did not. The revised documents were then sent to the wrong address, leading to another hold up, and the Covid-19 pandemic added to the lengthy setbacks. There were also claims that the council had lost documents which had been sent to them by Mr K’s solicitors.
The RTB process was completed in September 2020. The council apologised for its delay in responding to his complaint, but Mr K was not happy with the response and took the matter to the ombudsman.
The investigating officer concluded: “I found faults by the Council. However, these only caused a limited delay to Mr K’s purchase of the property.
Mr K complained that communication with him was poor throughout the buying process, as the council did not return some of his calls and did not acknowledge or respond to his distress. The Council apologised for the delays it was responsible for. I am satisfied this is an appropriate remedy for the delay caused.
“In addition, I am mindful that Mr K and his solicitor did not use their legal right to serve delay notices on the Council. This would have been the appropriate way to ensure the RTB process did not have any further delays or for Mr K to be compensated for delays caused by the Council.
“However, I acknowledge the Council made several errors and its plans set out the property boundary wrongly in comparison to its registered title. Although this did not cause a significant delay, I am satisfied it caused Mr K some distress and uncertainty in the Council’s ability to manage the RTB process properly.”
The council agreed to pay Mr K £150 “to acknowledge the avoidable distress and uncertainty this caused him.”
The council also agreed to remind its staff of the importance of drafting property transfer documents correctly before sending these to buyers.
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