The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X has complained about how the Council dealt with her concerns about the building work her neighbour carried out. There is no evidence of fault by the Council.
- Mrs X contacted the Council to complain about the standard of building work her neighbours carried out to convert their garage into a habitable space. Mrs X says the Council failed to protect her property and monitor the build. She says the Council did not properly look into the concerns she raised and her home has been damaged as a result.
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- 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 considered all the information from Mrs X and the Council, including its response to my enquires.
- A copy of this decision was sent in draft to Mrs X and the Council. I have considered any comments received in response.
- In August 2017, the Council received a Full Plans Building Regulation application from Mrs X’s neighbour to convert their garage into habitable accommodation. The Council approved the application subject to conditions. After construction started, Mrs X contacted the Council to complain about the quality of the building work. She raised concerns about poor workmanship, unsuitable drainage and said the fascia and guttering hung over the boundary with her home. Mrs X said her property was being damaged because of these issues.
- The Council met with Mrs X to discuss her concerns. It said it was satisfied there had not been any building regulation contraventions and a completion certificate had been issued at the end of November 2017. Mrs X was unhappy with this response and complained to the Council again in April 2018. She explained that she had taken her neighbour to the small claims court because of the damage the development had caused to the boundary fence. She also provided further photographs to show the unsuitable drainage her neighbour had installed. The Council looked into Mrs X’s concerns. It agreed that her neighbour had carried out extra work to the drainage. It said this was in breach of the building regulations and action was needed to remedy the situation.
- Mrs X remains unhappy. She says the Council was aware of these problems before issuing the completion certificate. She argues the damage to her property could have been avoided had the Council acted sooner.
What I found
- Most building work will need building regulations approval. The regulations set standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure the safety of people in and about the building. Local authorities will visit the site at different stages of the build. But it will not be present for most of the project and does not act as a ‘clerk of works’. It must issue a completion certificate on request and when it is satisfied after taking all reasonable steps that the building regulations have been met. However, this is not a guarantee that works are to the required standard.
- Mrs X complained about the Council’s decision to issue the completion certificate in November 2017. She says it should have been clear the building work was poor quality and damaging her home. But, I can see from the Council’s records that it visited the site several times and said the project complied with the building regulations before it issued the completion certificate. It also confirmed this again after visiting Mrs X in January 2018. I understand Mrs X may not agree, but this was the Council’s professional judgement and I cannot criticise this decision without any evidence of fault.
- I also cannot say there is any fault with how the Council responded to Mrs X’s stage two complaint in April 2018. Mrs X sent the Council further evidence to demonstrate her concerns about the drainage. The Council again looked into the matter and agreed the property owner had carried out extra work, which contravened the building regulations, since it issued the completion certificate. It contacted Mrs X’s neighbour to inspect the work and to discuss what was required to correct the drainage and ensure compliance. I understand Mrs X says the Council took too long to take any action and therefore her property has been damaged. But it is not for the Council to monitor all aspects of the building development and I am satisfied it responded appropriately once it became clear that additional work had taken place which did not comply with the regulations. Furthermore, the Council is not responsible for the quality of the building work or the impact of defective work. This will lie with the builder or the land owner. If Mrs X believes her home has been damaged she may wish to seek legal advice about making a claim against those responsible.
- There is no fault with how the Council dealt with Mrs X’s complaint about her neighbour’s building works.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman