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Couple expecting a baby were placed in 'cockroach infested' accommodation

A couple who were expecting a baby and were at risk of homelessness were placed in shared temporary accommodation with a cockroach infestation, despite being led to believe by the council they would have a self-contained flat.

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The man and woman, known only as Mr X and Miss P in a report by the Housing Ombudsman, contacted Birmingham City Council in late November 2021, when Miss P was heavily pregnant.

They had been threatened with homelessness, so the council booked them into a family room at a hotel and began plans to help them secure a suitably affordable private rental property.

Interim accommodation was arranged and the couple signed a legal agreement which described the home as “a one-bedroom, self-contained property”.

However, on entering the accommodation the couple discovered it was not self-contained and the report states that Mr X complained it was “worse than the hotel accommodation he and Miss P had just left”.

In response to enquiries by the Housing Ombudsman, a council housing officer admitted it had used the wrong template for the agreement which should not have given the impression the couple would be moving into a self-contained flat.

The council apologised for this error but as the accommodation was an interim solution, the couple did not have the right to be moved.

But their situation worsened when Mr X discovered a cockroach infestation at the property which took two visits by pest control to eradicate, during which time the couple were moved to a different room.

Furthermore, the council delayed processing Mr X’s housing register application, and further delayed amending it when Mr X notified the council on February 21 they would now need a two-bedroom home after the birth of his daughter.

By May 4 the council had still failed to make the amendment and Mr X provided a letter from the couple’s health visitor expressing concerns about the accommodation.

The report reads: “She said that the ‘…living conditions are not suitable for a young infant. The room has little ventilation and was extremely hot despite having the one window open and a fan running.’

“She added that the infant was at risk of overheating, which could lead to significant harm to the infant, including leading to Sudden Infant Death.”

The council informed Mr X they had made the amendment on June 1 and he was able to bid for two-bedroom properties.

The Housing Ombudsman found the council to blame for providing the incorrect legal agreement and for not acknowledging this mistake until enquiries were made as part of the investigation.

However, the council was not to blame for the cockroaches of which it had no prior knowledge.

The Housing Ombudsman has instructed the council to pay the couple £3,200 “to acknowledge the time spent in unsuitable accommodation” and a further £200 for distress caused by the misleading legal agreement.

It has also instructed the council to pay a backdated amount of £200 per month from March 1 to the date Mr X and Miss P are offered new accommodation.

A council spokesperson said: “We have apologised to the tenant in this case and have paid them the agreed compensation.

“All the other recommendations from the case have or are being carried out.”

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