The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr and Mrs D complain the Council has failed to issue a completion certificate for building works done to their home. The Ombudsman has not found any evidence of fault. He has completed the investigation and not upheld the complaint.
- The complainants (whom I refer to as Mr and Mrs D) say the Council has failed to identify areas of non-compliance with building works done to their home over ten years ago. They also complain the Council is refusing to issue a completion certificate or confirm what work is required to bring the build up to standard.
What I have investigated
- I have considered events covering the last 12 months as explained below.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman cannot investigate late complaints unless he decides there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to the Ombudsman about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D)
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and service failure. I have used the word fault to refer to these. The Ombudsman cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. He must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3))
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have carefully considered the information supplied by Mr and Mrs D.
- I have shared my draft decision with both parties.
What I found
- Mr and Mrs D had building works carried out to their home in 2006. The Council’s Building Control Team noted possible defects with the works and would not issue a completion certificate.
- Additional building work was carried out in 2013/14. The Council still considered the building work was not compliant and would not supply a completion certificate.
Events I have investigated
- In 2018 a Building Control Officer inspected the property and advised Mr and Mrs D about the existing defects which were detailed to them in a letter.
What should have happened
- Most building work requires Building Regulations approval. Building Regulations are the standards for design and construction of buildings. The Council’s Building Control Officer will visit a site to check the build is compliant with regulations. If they are found to meet the required standards the Council will issue a completion certificate. If the Council finds there are significant defects in the build they cannot issue a completion certificate and will advise the property owner about the defects that require attention.
Was there fault by the Council
- I see no evidence of fault by the Council. Cleary Mr and Mrs D are in an unfortunate position because they have spent a large amount of money and are left with a defective structure. However, the Council’s role in such matters is limited to assessing whether or not the build is compliant with the Regulations. The Council does not oversee the works or bear any responsibility for the quality of the build that results. That responsibility lies with the builder and the homeowner, in this case Mr and Mrs D. The Council has acted in line with procedures. It has visited the property in 2018 and explained the defects that remain outstanding. There is no requirement on the Council to provide any further information to Mr and Mrs D such a structural engineer’s report. It cannot issue a completion certificate when it has found serious defects with the build. I am satisfied the Council has acted correctly. Whilst Mr and Mrs D disagree with the Council there is no basis for the Ombudsman to question the validity of its decision making in the absence of procedural fault.
- Mr and Mrs D also dispute rulings by the Courts about the liability of councils in such matters. The Courts have found that councils are not liable for putting right defects. That is not a matter the Ombudsman can consider as the Court Service lies outside our jurisdiction.
- I have completed the investigation and not upheld the complaint.
Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate
- I have not looked back to 2006 when the original building works took place. Mr and Mrs D have previously complained to the Ombudsman about the same issues and I cannot revisit those investigations.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman