Couple who were refused a house win a Â£500 payout from South Tyneside Council
Town hall chiefs have been ordered to make a Â£500 apology to a couple with learning difficulties who were refused housing.
South Tyneside Council has agreed to stump up the cash and apologise after a ruling by the Local Government Ombudsman.
It says measures are in hand to make sure the incident is not repeated in future.
The pair - named only as Ms B and Mr C - have been in a relationship for four years, and applied jointly for a home in 2017.
Their application was rejected due to Mr C having a criminal conviction and subsequent prison sentence, and the couple appealed to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
According to a report by the government watchdog, Ms B appealed the decision, claiming Mr C’s conviction had been ‘done out of self-defence’ and pleaded for him to be given a second chance.
She also argued that, as it had happened five years earlier, it was outside the two-year window in which housing bosses are allowed to use a criminal conviction as a reason to reject an application.
After an investigation, Ms B’s appeal was backed by the Ombudsman.
South Tyneside Council admitted it had ‘misinterpreted’ information provided by police.
The report said: “I agree with Ms B and Mr C that Mr C has no convictions in the last two years, which would mean he does not qualify under housing rules.
“The council contacted the Ombudsman and said it carried out its own review.
“It said it had obtained further information regarding Mr C’s police check.
“It said it misinterpreted some of the information on Mr C’s police check when it first considered the application for housing, and agreed it therefore did not properly consider the application or any risk identified in the police check.”
As well as the apology and the cash payout, the council also offered the couple a property, promised to redecorate it and that it would review previous similar cases.
A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council said: “The council has accepted the findings of the Ombudsman and have since implemented and updated processes to prevent further incidents such as this case happening again.”
James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service