A Croydon man slept in his car for over a year after finding rodents living in his flat, a recent ombudsman report has found.

Croydon Council has been criticised for its failure to respond to a resident’s concerns that his council flat was uninhabitable due to repairs and issues with rodents needing to be resolved.

The resident, known as Mr C in the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) report, told Croydon Council about rodents in his council home in summer 2021, before complaining about the problem in autumn of the same year.

He claimed he was staying in his car because of the rodents and overall condition of the property.

The council reportedly had no record of Mr C’s initial concerns, but later passed on the info to the relevant officer.

The resident told the council that rodents were still in his flat in spring 2022, despite pest control adding traps.

The report said pest control visited twice again in summer 2022 after a council officer saw several dead rodents in traps on a visit.

The council then reportedly arranged a deep clean of the property and for its contractor to make several repairs.

Mr C later reportedly said his flat was still unsuitable for habitation, with the council responding to his concerns.

The report said: “[The council] explained there were no rodents when [Mr C] moved into the property.

"It said his failure to report the issue, the lack of cleanliness within his property and not being home for pest control appointments had made matters worse.

"It was satisfied the steps its tenancy team had taken to address the issues, and reminded Mr C about his duties as a council tenant.”

The resident asked to escalate his complaint after not being satisfied with the council’s response.

The bushes outside Mr C’s flat were reportedly cut by the council’s contractor in August 2022, with potential rodent entry points into the property being sealed off after a rodent nest was found.

The ombudsman said surveyors had found the resident’s flat to be “unsuitable for human habitation” when inspecting it in autumn 2022

Mr C’s solicitor reportedly sent the council a notice of his intention to sue the authority after he did not get a response for his complaint escalation.

He also asked the LGSCO to consider his complaint in late 2022.

The council responded to Mr C’s concerns in late 2022, admitting the complaints had been handled “poorly”.

The council acknowledged the delay in dealing with the rodent issues in his flat but they said Mr C’s lack of tidiness did not help this.

Mr C was reportedly offered a £300 payment of goodwill by the council, alongside an apology. 

The authority told the ombudsman they did not consider Mr C homeless and that pest control had treated the property’s rodent infestation.

They added that Mr C accepted the council’s offer of temporary accommodation in late 2022 to allow them to conduct repairs on his property.

The ombudsman said in their report that they didn’t consider Mr C’s complaint about the council’s handling of the disrepair and rodents in his flat.

However, they felt the resident’s flat was uninhabitable from September 2021 until December 2022 and the authority was at fault for not properly considering how the rodents and disrepairs were affecting the living conditions.

They said in their report: “I am satisfied, on balance, Mr C’s flat was not suitable for his occupation from September 2021 until he was decanted in December 2022…

"Mr C told the Council he could not live in his council flat in September 2021 due to the rodent infestation and as a result he was sleeping in his car. The Council said it did not consider Mr C for eligibility under homelessness legislation as he had a secure tenancy with the Council.”

The authority was also criticised for taking eight months to respond to Mr C’s initial complaint and four months to reply to his escalated complaint.

Mr C claimed the experience had caused him “distress and uncertainty”, which the ombudsman agreed with in their report.

The ombudsman instructed the council to apologise to Mr C in writing as well as pay him £3,800 for the distress and uncertainty they had caused him.

This was due to the resident being deprived of suitable accommodation for 13 months given the uninhabitable state of his flat and the delay the council took to answer such concerns.

The council was also told to remind its staff of its duty to advise residents looking for support on homelessness and the housing register.

It was also told to ensure complaints are responded to within the timescales set in the authority’s complaints policy.

A Croydon Council spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We sincerely apologise to our resident and regret how his complaints were handled when original complaints were made.

"We accept that not enough was done to support him when his accommodation became uninhabitable and we have compensated him for the distress this has caused. We’re working hard to improve our housing services for all our residents, and make sure we always provide the right support and advice to those in need.”