Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 25 Jan 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint that the Council failed to carry out proper inspections on her neighbour’s extension. An investigation is unlikely to lead to a different outcome and we cannot achieve what she wants.
- Mrs X complains the Council signed off her neighbours defective building work which has encroached on her land and is damaging her property. She wants the Council to cancel the completion certificate, force her neighbour to reinforce the foundations and compensate her for the damage.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A (6), as amended)
What I found
- Mrs X complained to the Council that her neighbour has:
- built his extension over the boundary line
- carried out the work without a Party Wall Act agreement
- put extra weight and strain in her property foundations
- caused significant cosmetic damage to her property
- I do not know if the Council carried out thorough inspections of the extension. But even if the Council was at fault the Ombudsman could not provide a remedy for Mrs X. The courts have held that a council cannot be held responsible for economic loss for the cost of remedying a defect that resulted from the local authority’s failure to ensure that a building complied with the building regulations. (Murphy v Brentwood District Council (1990))
- It is the Ombudsman’s view that only in exceptional circumstances should we seek to impose an obligation on councils where the courts have held, largely on grounds of public policy, there should be no liability in law. There are no exceptional circumstances which lead me to impose these obligations. Therefore, an investigation will not lead to a worthwhile outcome in this case.
- It is my view that Mrs X’s remedy is against her neighbour who is responsible for carrying out the work which she says has damaged her property.
- My view is that the Ombudsman should not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely that further investigation will lead to a different outcome. And we cannot achieve what Mrs X wants.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman