HMO, Council and the Local Government Ombudsman.

by Readers Question

A month ago

HMO, Council and the Local Government Ombudsman.

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HMO, Council and the Local Government Ombudsman.

I’m suffering because of my local Council and the Local Government Ombudsman. I’m sure you will find my story shocking!

My case/story:

My treatment from Stevenage Borough Council’s Environmental Department & the LGO has been unfair, unjust and appalling! Moreover, they have violated my human and civil rights.

I’m a 70-year-old and been fighting with neighbour HMO property owner/Stevenage Borough Council & the Local Government Ombudsman for Justice and my (basic) human rights since November 2015.

It is regarding (5) heavy hydraulic-spring fire doors and (1) extra main entrance/door fitted in a prefabricated, sub-standard 3-bedroom house not suitable for HMO/heavy fire doors. Two of these doors – (1 fire door and the extra main entrance/door) fitted only 1 meter away from the very thin party wall that divides us. The council’s Environmental Health officer did a biased, covered up, flawed investigation of the fire doors noise. Because I knew the outcome and decision of the investigation were biased/flawed (in favour of the HMO property owner), I then escalated my complaint to council’s stages 1, 2 & 3 investigations, where officer’s manager supported the officer.

At the early stage of the investigation, I believed the officer was also being spiteful towards me because I complained about her not taking my complaint seriously, not carrying out the noise investigation quickly, and the biased way in which she was handling the investigation. Therefore, I requested a different officer to carry out the investigation because I did not trust the appointed officer to come to the right decision – because of her words…attitude…and lack of importance of dealing with my complaint, but my request was refused. It has now proven my fears were right because the officer did exactly as I thought – covered up all aspects of the noise investigation.

Subsequently, I went on the local Radio Station to air my problem and frustration regarding the HMO and the Council’s EH Officer’s attitude towards the investigation. Furthermore, because of a statement made in a letter from the Council, I believe they wilfully refused to tackle noise. Moreover, my own knowledge, and understanding from another HMO source…the council will cover up any noise and would not do anything because they benefit from HMOs because HMOs are the new form council houses/tenants to justify the lack of proper council accommodations not being built – hence the cover up.

The Council/EH officer informed me; 1st recording of noise too quiet and not admissible. Therefore, I requested a 2nd recording (that would have been recorded louder) but the officer and her manager claimed the recorder broke down. Subsequently, after officer listened to noises physically…the officer claimed; noise not statutory nor loud, and do not see why Council or HMO property owner should spend money to fix noise because of officer professionalism, expertise and hearing…noises not statutory nor loud.

I am amazed that this so-called EH officer (“supposedly” an expert in ordinary domestic noise and fire doors noises, just by listening to them), did not know how I can hear fire doors noises on the first-floor hallway and bedrooms of my house, coming from the ground floor in HMO neighbour’s house. But yet this officer is an expert and a professional according to the Council. How can that be??? However, when she had physically listened to noises from my first floor, she definitely heard them for herself! Moreover, there are other aspects of officer’s professionalism and expertise that is questionable, because of other comments…she made to me (I have recorded on another page I hold). In addition, there was no recording to substantiate officer and her manager claims; that noise is not statutory nor loud.

I also learnt from an AV Engineer and an Acoustical Investigation & Research Organisation, that the Council recording equipment was not suitable to record fire doors’ noise (that sounds like Sonic Booms). In addition, according to the officer’s colleague (the recording engineer), they have never in history recorded fire doors’ noise before and that I was the first. These noises are so loud and heavy (even when wearing Headphones https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00M3RJUWC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 or Ear Defenders (http://www.screwfix.com/p/se1348-comfort-ear-defenders-29-8db-snr/41054#_=p) they sometimes vibrates the Party Wall and can be heard ‘loudly’ in all my rooms (with all room’s doors closed) over the entirety of my ‘large’ 3-bedroom house; but yet, this officer claimed noises are not loud! Lies!!! Moreover, I asked officer; can you live here, or in your own house with that level of noise coming from your next-door neighbour you are expecting me to live with? The officer refused to answer. In addition, I also believe my 6 weeks’ diary recordings were ignored.

The officer assured me that she will ask the property owner to adjust closures on all fire doors and will return in a week to see if property owner complied. However, a letter from her manager stated; she asked the property owner to adjust ‘only some’ of them and had returned to the property to check owner had complied and noise has been stopped. Officer claimed, noise been “significantly” reduced, but the officer did not return to my own property to substantiate this. As you can see, the officer did not keep her promise to have all fire doors adjusted. Shocking, for a trustworthy officer!? I again complained to the council that the officer did not return to my property to substantiate fire doors noise were reduced and can still be heard ‘loudly’. The council responded; it was not the council’s responsibility to get noise sorted, and the HMO landlord was only doing me a favour to adjust fire doors to make them close quietly. So, as you can see, the council’s attitude and action were not only irresponsible but also biased! In addition, from my experience of the biased way and attitude for a council officer to have acted in the way she did, I will not rule out the possibility of discrimination; because if the officer/council supposed to be all above board with its investigations, I cannot see any other way how a supposedly “professional” council officer would have lied and covered up a CRUCIAL noise investigation like that! Unless covering up noise investigations is a standard thing the council/officers does in order not to spend money to solve residence noise complaints.

Subsequently, I escalated my complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman regarding the council’s failure and negligence of not dealing honestly with the HMO fire doors noise situation. However, my experience…have shown me; the LGO could not be an independent organisation, as claimed… They seemed to act as the council’s Lawyer in the way in which they agreed and defend them – 100% throughout their ‘biased’ investigation.

I am shocked and very disappointed with both Council/LGO (biased and unfair) investigations outcome, and I am still suffering from stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, mild stroke and been hospitalised for 3 days, all because the council forced this HMO situation upon me. It is as though they have put a loaded gun to my head and waiting for me to pull the trigger – to which I understand, and it is my belief; they will be happy for me to do.

It seems the whole system is stacked against us ‘Mere Mortals’ – people like me, and others in similar situations, there is no justice for us, and nothing we can do about it! The councils and the LGO can do as they please and get away with it because they know we are helpless against them! Moreover, the fact that they breach our Human Rights do not matter to them. They like to talk Human Rights, but in practice, they ignore it when it comes to their unjust, unfair and inhumane acts.

The LGO investigator final decision wasn’t any different from their draft decision…in spite of all my evidence I submitted in support of my complaint; they were ignored because investigator already made her mind up with her draft decision to defend and support the council – even with the lies. Moreover, the LGO investigator treated me with contempt too – by not contacting me for evidence to support my complaint before she started the investigation against the council. In addition, when the investigation had finished, the LGO officer did not contact/inform me.

I informed the council and the LGO regarding the non-suitability of the property for HMO purpose (which the council already knew about) but neither the council nor LGO did not accept it in support of my complaint. The council is at present renovating these same (prefabricated sub-standard) styles of houses (that are still council own) to meet the proper environmental standard.

The LGO informed me that the only way I can challenge its decision is in the High Court, and if I lose, they will take me for what I have got! Is this also scaremongering to stop me from taking court proceeding? Nevertheless, why should I have to stand the expense to take Council/LGO to court, when it is their own wilful act and maladministration/cover up that is causing my situation and suffering, to which they know they are guilty? In addition, with no legal aid and the cheapest solicitor fees at £500 for ½ hr consultation and £250 p/hr in court. How am I going to afford that on my pension? Alternatively, I would have to sell my property to pay for the court proceeding. However, there is another problem right there; I am unable to sell my property because of the (still) fire doors noise.

I have a copy of a letter from my GP regarding my health and the effect the noise is having on me, which I delivered to the council’s chief executive, but of course, it was ignored. In addition, my GP also referred me to the well-being service, and as a result, I have been referred for counselling.

I am sure you and anyone else who reads about my experience will see that the whole affair between HMO/Council and the LGO is political…, profiteering, saving money, and ‘definitely’ a conspiracy!

Before the HMO moved in, I had my property on the market for sale because I wanted to downsize. However, when the HMO moved in, I had to take it off the market because of the extent and severity of noise. Now all the investigation has failed me, I have no alternative left now than to put it back on the market hoping I can sell it. However, I am struggling to sell, because, there are questions being asked by buyers regarding the legitimacy of a substandard…letter from the council to support their claim, that noise is reduced “significantly”/ noise not statutory nor loud. Lies!!! However, the letter was written in a way…only to cover the council, because the additional statement I asked to be included in the letter to give buyers the confidence and assurance that the noise was reduced were omitted. Therefore, because the Council/LGO did not do anything positive to stop the noise, it looks as though I will be unable to sell my property also.

Now, the EH officer claim noise not statutory nor loud, LGO covered and supported the council 100% (where I did not matter). Moreover, I am unable to sell my house – not even to get away from the fire doors noise. Even the (same) Council will not buy it. So, what am I supposed to do now?

A damning report regarding Councils and the LGO came to my attention recently (after I had drafted this letter). https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmcomloc/writev/lgo/lgo11.htm (true to my own experience). Therefore, this is why I did not stand a chance in Hell against Stevenage Borough Council!!! It seemed these practices have been going on for a very long time, and no matter whichever political party is in power, they are all in it together. And it is obvious that none of them is going to do anything to help me nor stop these practices to give us ‘Mere Mortals’ a chance of winning against councils for their crooked ways and maladministration!

The entire thing regarding Council’s regulations is neither here or there! Because I am sure you know as well as I, they can be flawed/broken to favour the council and for those whose faces fit. It seems that there is Council HMO fire doors regulation to protect the tenants from fire. In addition, there supposed to be noise regulation to protect me from noise. However, as one can see, when it comes to HMO/fire doors, these regulations are upheld. However, when it comes to regulation for my protection from these fire doors noises, I do not matter!

I know the whole aspects of my situation with the HMO, Council, LGO, their corruptions and dishonesty stop squarely with the government. As government ministers, my MP and Councillors have the powers to act and can take ‘positive’ action to get me out of this situation that Stevenage Borough Council has inflicted upon me. But they all washed their hands, passed the buck and chose not to do anything.

Norbert

Comments

Paul Shears

A month ago

Since before I was born we were too many and as long as we do not face up to this we are going to keep on increasing the rate and force with which we attack each other.
To give just one of several recent examples that have affected me in what is frequently held to be the very best place in the UK to live, In the last five weeks I have picked up £300 in parking fines whilst parked briefly in locations that affect no one.

Bill O'Dell

A month ago

I had this problem with a neighbour complaining about our doors closing - particularly at night (I am an HMO landlord). We initially fitted door dampers - the type you fit to kitchen cupboards - but they didn't work, fire doors too heavy. So er adjusted the closers and this is ok, but if the door doesn't close fully and the lock catch, then there is a fire risk implication.
I'd try engaging with the landlord, and suggesting fitting one of these - http://www.ironmongerydirect.co.uk/product/door-damper-40kg-silver-949236.
If you bought it and the landlord fitted it, then you could establish if it would work for you both.
I'm sure the landlord doesn't want the hassle you are generating and would probably be amenable to trying this. Unless you have already gone too far in involving others rather than dealing with the landlord direct.

John Maynard

A month ago

Hi Norbert, sorry to hear about your issues at the hands of a bullying incompetent council.
Have the fire doors been installed correctly ie with intumescent strips (smoke seals) ? Under normal operation these seals will soffen and dampen the bang on closing and extra self adhesive draught excluders could also be used to provide additional damping, we have had similar issues with tenants complaining about banging fire doors and were able to address the issue in this way. If the doors don't have any seals at all then A, have not been installed correctly and will not comply with building/fire regs and B, will slam horrendously and if you only have a single skin between you and your neighbour then yes this will shake the house as 40kg of fire door slams abruptly shut.. Write to their director of services and talk to the HMO owner directly?

Fen Jen

A month ago

Unfortunately even though the Councils environmental health departments are supposed to take action against noise they never ever do. We had men taking up a concrete floor in the building next door to us for over a year and we were literally vibrating when sitting at our desks. The council recorded the noise with a machine and said it was not loud enough to take action. Waste of time and everyone's money. I cannot see how you can get the noise reduced. The councils insist on fire doors in all rented properties now and HMO have to comply with stricter specs. Since the council has requested the doors so they can use the hmo for their homeless tenants you are right nothing will be done.

reader

A month ago

Sorry to read of all your problems.

If the doors are operated to close via a quality two stage adjustment mechanisum they can be virtually slient. My trade supplier sells them, a well know joinery chain that is trade only. They work by closing the door to within 3-6 inches of shut then the second stage moves it closer by gentlely pushing them fully closed. The only noise you will hear will be a brush against the seals and the click of any latch.

Frankly, the one stage devices amputate childrens fingers if caught by the force of the closer. Two stages are a better health and safety risk and any HMO etc should use them. They cost only a few pounds more and are a vastly better product.

Robert Mellors

A month ago

Reply to the comment left by at 12/10/2017 - 12:06
Hi Reader

Could you give us the link to the devices that you use and that resolves this banging problem please.

reader

A month ago

Briton 2003.SES door closer fixed size 3 SilverBriton 2003.SES door closer fixed size 3 Silver
Save
10 Year Operational Warranty
10 Year Operational Warranty
Essential Fire Door Hardware
Essential Fire Door Hardware
Briton 2003.SES door closer fixed size 3 Silver
Silver finish with matching arm
Supplied with parallel fixing plate which allows for either push or pull openings
Suitable for high usage
Briton 2003.SES door closer fixed size 3 Silver

The key is that they have a closing speed to within a few inches then a final latch speed. A well fitted door is very quiet, of course not slient, but definitely no banging or frame work virbration. On line they are about £53+VAT. Far cheaper than crushed fingers and upset neighbours.

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