A council has been rapped by a watchdog for its handling of a resident's housing situation after he requested to move to a different property because of medical reasons.

The unnamed complainant said he felt "trapped" in his home and applied to Watford Borough Council to give him a higher priority housing allocation.

He said where he was living, surrounded by communal outdoor spaces, was worsening his mental health - such as social anxiety - providing letters from medical professionals as evidence.

He asked the council to move him into another two-bed property that had private outdoor space. But when he applied in January 2020 for a review of his banding, a term that reflects the seriousness of someone's housing need, he retained the lowest priority banding of 'E'.

During the course of 2020, the man twice requested the council review its decision to refuse to upgrade his priority, including telling the council his partner was expecting to give birth.

In February 2021, after the second review of his banding failed, the man took his case to the Ombudsman citing four complaints.

He accused the council of "incorrectly" telling him he could not register his newborn child as a dependent in his household, "failing to consider" his need for outdoor space, and "failing to consider" the impact of noise from communal areas.

The man also said the council "incorrectly" stated his condition was not caused by his accommodation, adding the council "failed to give clear reasons" why he was not awarded higher priority on medical grounds.

The Ombudsman dismissed the first three complaints but upheld the last one because he found there to be "fault" by the council which caused the resident "injustice".

The Ombudsman said the council's refusal of the resident's request for medical priority went against its housing nominations policy and said the council did not assess how the man's accommodation was affecting his condition. This in turn caused the resident "uncertainty" and meant he missed out on having his banding "properly reviewed".

An independent medical advisor's report did not provide "any clear reasons" why the man's current accommodation was considered "suitable" on medical grounds. The Ombudsman says the council's decision was "influenced" by that report.

Accusing the council of causing the resident "distress and uncertainty", the Ombudsman requested the council apologise which it has done so. A payment of £100 was made to the resident for the "trouble" he went to "chasing" the council for a decision of its review in October 2020.

Another banding review is to take place, and if it is unsuccessful, the council has been told it must set out to the resident "clear reasons" why.

The council has agreed to also review its guidance to staff about requesting advice from its independent medical advisors.

Cllr Stephen Johnson, who has responsibilities for property and housing in Watford, said: "We fully accept the recommendations in the report, which we are already working hard to put in place, and offer our sincere apologies to the resident.

"The council supports thousands of people on the housing register each year, including carrying out numerous banding reviews. Over the last four years this is only the second case where we have been asked to go back and review our decisions. 

"This is a huge testament to our commitment to residents who need help with their housing needs. Our focus now is to take forward the lessons learned in this case and give the resident all the assistance they need."

The Ombudsman report, which was published in October 2021, will be noted by the council's Cabinet at a meeting on December 6.

The Ombudsman report can be found here.