This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at www.shelter.org.uk

Potential problems

This content applies to England & Wales

Problems a person may face when applying to the local authority for help with home improvements.

Common problems

Common problems could include:

  • refusal by the local authority to issue an application form
  • delay in processing the application
  • an incorrect assessment of her/his resources in the calculation of her/his contribution to a means-tested grant
  • refusal by the authority to offer help
  • delay by the local authority in payment of a loan or grant
  • failure by the local authority to adhere to its policy, for instance where it does not meet a time limit for approving applications if it has set one out in its policy
  • an authority fettering its discretion by, for instance, applying a blanket policy without regard to the personal circumstances of the applicant.

Making a complaint

If a person is experiencing problems in accessing help with home improvements, s/he will be able to complain to the local authority, which should have in place a formal complaints procedure. Alternatively, a person may wish to object to an unlawful or unfair policy or decision on home improvements through the authority's monitoring officer. A monitoring officer, who will typically be a senior local authority officer, has an obligation to report, to the local authority, a decision or proposal by the authority that is considered unlawful or unjust. The local authority will then have 21 days within which to consider the report by the monitoring officer.

A person who has difficulty in obtaining assistance with home improvements also has the option of making a complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. However, s/he is expected to make a complaint through local authority's complaints procedure first, before complaining to the Ombudsman (see the page Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) for more information). In one case, the Ombudsman decided that in exercising discretion in relation to grant approval policies a local authority should consider the human rights of the applicant. A council should not automatically assume that its policy should be applied in all cases and should take into account the individual circumstances of the applicant(s).[1]

Judicial review

Where a local authority's decision on help with home improvements is made unlawfully, for instance if it has failed to comply with its legal requirements in reaching the decision, the person may have a basis for challenging this through the courts. This is known as judicial review and it is the procedure by which the High Court considers the lawfulness of a decision that has been made by a public body (such as a local authority). 

For more information see the section on Challenging local authority decisions.

[1] Complaint no 09 006 783 against Blaby DC, Local Government Ombudsman.

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