This page includes summaries of completed investigations and will be updated as cases are completed.
Ms M purchased her boat in situ and was told by the seller she could continue to moor at the location free of charge, as he had since 2009. Ms M accepted this information in good faith and applied for and was granted her boat licence declaring herself as having a Home Mooring.
Nearly two years later Ms M received a request for payment for the mooring from someone who claimed to be the owner of the mooring. As she was unsure if this was a legitimate request Ms M sought advice from the Trust about whether to make payment to a private bank account with no agreed contract. She was advised against this.
The Trust later confirmed the previous owner had been a business tenant of the Trust’s. As part of the lease agreement, he had exclusivity of the mooring that the boat had occupied for many years. The Trust says the situation came to its attention when the lease for the Dock transferred to the new tenant, who wished to have access to the mooring as it forms part of the agreement with the Trust. He complained to the Trust that he did not have full use of the facilities he was paying for because Ms M’s boat was moored there. The Trust checked its records and as it was already aware the boat did not have the mooring operator’s permission to remain there it contacted Ms M, through its Mooring Awaiting Confirmation process, and asked her to provide evidence of a valid home mooring or to continuously cruise. Ms M was unhappy with this and made her complaint.
The Trust’s definition of a Home Mooring is, ‘a mooring or other place that will be available for the Boat throughout the period of the Licence. We must be satisfied that the Boat can be reasonably and lawfully kept there when not being used for cruising.’ The Trust explained it owns the canal bed and its permission is required for the exclusive right to occupy the water space. As the Dock, which was being used as the Home Mooring forms part of the Business tenancy agreement it is for the Business to agree to allow Ms M to use the mooring, as they had for two years, at no charge. In May 2022, the business operator requested that she remove her boat from the mooring. As Ms M cannot provide evidence that she has an agreement with the business operator to remain moored at the Dock she has been asked to move away. The Trust has refused to accept her licence application as a home mooring.
I was satisfied that Ms M had no valid agreement with the mooring operator to moor at the location. It followed she cannot declare the location as a Home Mooring on her boat licence and therefore must be classified as a continuous cruiser.
Ms M says the Trust did not take into account that her boat was too big to continuously cruise and the engine was not in working order. She asked if the Trust could have tried to understand her situation and advise on realistic solutions. I concluded it is the responsibility of the boat owner to maintain their boat and to ensure it has a valid licence and the responsibility of the Trust to enforce the regulations.
Ms M also complained that the Trust had provided information to the business operator about her licence status. This was based on information in a letter she had received from him which alluded to information provided by the Trust. Ms M says she has contacted the Information Commissioners Office in relation to this and as they are best placed to respond to this, I made no comment.
The Trust has provided links to its General Terms and conditions for Boat licences and has quoted the relevant legislation in response to the complaint and for the purposes of this investigation. I was satisfied the Trust had acted in line with its policies.
Although I had some sympathy for Ms M, as she acted in good faith based on the information provided to her when she purchased the boat, it transpired that information was incorrect. It seems that the seller of the boat was not completely transparent with her and Ms M did not seek any clarification on the mooring status from the Trust. Had she done so she would have been advised the mooring forms part of a tenancy for the dry dock and it would be a decision for the tenants whether to allow her to use the mooring on a permanent basis. The Trust does have warnings on its website advising that mooring agreements are personal to the individual boat owner and that they are rarely assignable from one boat owner to another. They advise ‘If someone offers you a boat with a mooring, be very sceptical and demand legal evidence they have the right to pass on the mooring agreement when selling the boat.’
I was satisfied the disputed home mooring was genuinely invalid. Ms M requested that any realistic alternatives to the change of licence be discussed and the termination of her licence be reversed. There are only two alternatives with the long term licence, a valid home mooring or continuously cruising. The Trust confirmed that termination of her licence would only be reversed if she could demonstrate adherence to either option.
Mr N lives adjacent to a canal and complained about a boat dweller moored opposite his flat. He explained the boat was unlicensed and had no engine, so a diesel generator was running from morning to night which had a detrimental impact on his mental health and well-being. He complained to the Trust which he felt had not managed the situation well, he believed that, as the area is a 14-day mooring only, the boat should have moved on once it had overstayed that time. The Trust has accepted there have been delays in responding to the issues raised but says that it was hampered by the need to follow due process when potentially making someone homeless. As the boat is unlicensed it cannot pursue the occupant by enforcing its licence conditions and instead, as the boat is being used as a home has to take a legal route to remove the boat.
The investigation focused on whether the Trust has followed the procedures for dealing with Liveaboard boaters.
The boat at the centre of the complaint was ‘unidentified’, which means that it had no boat index number or name. The Trust therefore has no record of it, its sale, or details of the current owner/lawful keeper. As the boat is unlicensed there is no existing agreement with the boater about how they will behave so there are no conditions of the licence to abide by.
The Trust is bound by its processes and procedures because the outcome of its action could result in making someone homeless. It has to follow a legal route to remove the individual from the waterways. This takes time, effort and constant monitoring and interaction. When there are complaints about anti social behaviour and noise and smoke pollution it also involves other agencies.
The Trust did not have the necessary resources in place to deal with the situation in a timely manner and begin the Liveaboard process. This extended the time that Mr N was inconvenienced by the boater. The Trust did not recognise a complaint had been made and begin the complaints process in a timely manner, for which the Trust had already apologised. Mr N felt complaint responses lacked detail and were not clear on what, if any action was being taken, as the Trust was concerned to protect the identity of the boater. The Local Authority and the Police were able to provide more detail, which added to the frustration of Mr N.
It was apparent there was a lack of knowledge between agencies of the possible actions that each could take and an expectation that the Trust could do more than it was able to. As the complaint progressed a working relationship was established between the LA and the Trust which should lead to future improvements.
I concluded that the Trust did not have the necessary resources in place to deal with the situation in a timely manner and begin the Liveaboard process. This extended the time that Mr N was inconvenienced by the boater.
I recommended that the Trust should reinforce the message that a complaint is any expression of dissatisfaction and although the advisors may be aware there is no further action that can be taken at the time, that does not negate the complaint element of a contact. That the Trust may wish to consider producing a Fact sheet which sets out what it can and cannot do in these circumstances and what the roles of other agencies are, and that the Trust’s legal team should reconsider what information it can share with third parties and if necessary, ensure staff and advisors are made aware of any changes to protocol. I also required a small goodwill gesture to recognise the stress and inconvenience caused by the delays in starting the Liveaboard and the complaints process.
Mr P complained about the Trust’s management of canal bridge closures, the lack of signage about the diversion and businesses remaining open and that his business was severely affected by the bridge closure. He also explained the bridge closures caused him and his family stress and inconvenience as he cares for his 86 year old mother who has dementia and she lives on the other side of the canal to him. The bridge closures meant he was unable to use the quickest route to get to her and check on her welfare and added time to the journey in the event of an emergency or urgent need.
Mr P says the problem was compounded when the bridge had been shut for 9 weeks, meaning he had to travel to a second bridge to get to his mum, the second bridge was then shut for repairs and he was having to travel to a third bridge, extending the trip to 10 miles. He was then advised the third bridge was due to shut for 24 hours. Mr P also found his interactions with the Trust difficult and frustrating as he felt the Trust did not fully appreciate the effect the situation was having on him and his family.
The Trust said there was one day during this period when all three bridges were closed. It acknowledged the disruption and apologised. It added at no time was there not an alternative means of access, albeit of a slightly protracted nature to the existing options. The Trust says the closure of the third bridge was caused by issues outside of its control and was unforeseen.
The crux of this complaint was whether the Trust had acted reasonably in closing bridge two and three, when the first bridge remained closed. Had it adequately considered the impact on individuals and businesses which would be affected by the closures. The Trust was able to demonstrate it had followed all the necessary process and procedures around road closures with the local council. Had everything gone to plan the bridges would not have been shut at the same time. However, in my view, the Trust and its contractors could have done more at the initial stages to identify and engage with local residents and businesses who could be directly impacted by the bridge closures. Early engagement with Mr P could have identified if the signage was present and may have resulted in better signage, especially about local businesses being open, and he could have been better prepared to update his customers on the diversion and let them know the business remained open.
Mr P wished to claim business losses as he said the bridge closure had a severe effect on his ability to trade, as customers did not know how to get to his shop. Mr P would need to demonstrate the lost business was a direct result of the Trust or its contractor’s negligence. This is a matter for the Trust’s Loss Adjustors and Mr P was advised to make a claim.
Mr P wanted compensation for the stress and inconvenience caused to him and his family. I concluded that had the Trust spoken to Mr P before the bridge work started, he would have been better prepared for dealing with his mother and may have put alternative arrangements in place. I appreciated that the frustration at the lack of early communication and then, what he viewed as lack of engagement, as the bridges remained closed was a source of stress and inconvenience for Mr P and his family. On the basis of this and increased costs as his distance to reach his mother increased during the extended period of the closure of bridge 1 and 2, I awarded a small goodwill gesture.