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Wiltshire Council (18 012 829)

Category : Planning > Building control

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 24 Jan 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman does not intend to investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s issue of a completion certificate for a property she owns. It is unlikely we would find fault by the Council or that we could achieve what Ms X wants.

The complaint

  1. Ms X complains the Council should not have issued a completion certificate for a property she owns. She says the Council has been negligent in fulfilling its role under Building Regulations legislation, including not ensuring the tanking in her basement met standards and signing off an inadequate fire escape.
  2. Ms X complains the substandard work has led to financial loss, including the devaluing of her property and repair costs.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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 we would find fault, or
  • 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the information put in by Ms X with her complaint. I have also considered the Council's response.
  2. Ms X had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. People can apply for Building Regulations (the Regulations) approval from their local authority building control service. The Regulations set standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure the health and safety of people living in or using those buildings.
  2. A building control officer inspects the work as it progresses. The officer will advise the applicant or builder if the work does not comply with the Regulations. If it does not the building control officer can require work is corrected to ensure compliance.
  3. Ms X complains the work completed in 2008 has since been shown to be substandard and not in line with the specifications. She says the Council should not have issued a completion certificate.
  4. The Council says the plans submitted as part of the development were conditionally approved in 2007. It says the plans showed the tanking was ‘reasonable and compliant with the Building Regulations at that time’. The Council says it has since discovered the tanking installed was not as specified on the plans, but this would not have been visible on completion of the works.
  5. The Council told Ms X the developer had a responsibility to build in accordance with the plans approved under the planning and listed building consent, and the plans submitted under the Regulations. It said when the application was put in, it was not a statutory requirement to inspect the tanking.
  6. The Council told Ms X it inspected the property nine times. It said building control took reasonable steps to inspect the work and decided the work, including the fire escape, met Regulations.
  7. The Council told Ms X it was not building control’s role to supervise the development. It said the builder/owner should contact the Council at certain stages in the work and the Council ‘may’ inspect but was not required to do so under the Regulations.
  8. The Council provided guidance from the Planning Portal making it clear any completion certificate was issued with limits. The Council explained to Ms X its purpose was not to provide a guarantee for work carried out by the builder.


  1. Building control officers visit a site at various stages to complete their role under the Regulations. They will not be present for most of the project and do not act as a ‘clerk of works’. Responsibility for any breach of the Regulations lies with the property owner and the individuals who carry out the work.
  2. When asked, and if a council is satisfied the work has met the Regulations, it must issue a certificate. This is not a guarantee all works are completed to the necessary standard. All the certificate states is, as far as the council could tell at the time, it satisfied the Regulations.
  3. Ms X may have evidence the work was substandard, but this does not prove the Council was at fault for issuing the certificate. I have found no fault with the Council’s actions.
  4. The Courts have decided councils cannot be held responsible for economic loss for the cost of correcting a defect resulting from its failure to ensure a building complied with the Regulations.
  5. The Ombudsman cannot decide matters of negligence. Ms X will need to take her case to court if she believes the Council was negligent.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman should not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault by the Council or that we could achieve the result Ms X wants.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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