Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 28 Jan 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complains that the Council has failed to enforce building regulations on a house he bought. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint because there is no evidence of fault by the Council.
- Mr X complains that the Council has failed to enforce building regulations on a house he bought.
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 we would find fault. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the complainant's comments and the Council's comments and Mr X has commented on the draft decision.
What I found
- Mr X bought a new property from a developer. He says that a completion certificate was issued by the Council despite the fact that the property did not have appropriate fire doors. The Council maintains that the doors are acceptable.
- We will not investigate most building control complaints because primary responsibility for building work rests with those who commission it and those who do the work. When carrying out their functions, local authorities will visit at various stages but they are not required to do so. The number and timings of any inspections may vary by local authority and type of development. Local authorities will be not be present for the great majority of the project and do not act as a ‘clerk of works’. On request and when satisfied after taking 'all reasonable steps' that the Regulations have been met, they must issue a completion certificate. This is not a guarantee that all works have been done to the required standard. Building Regulations provide a means for the local authority to maintain building standards in general, rather than imposing a duty to maintain standards in each particular case.
- The Ombudsman would expect that a person purchasing a property would have a full survey completed before completing the purchase. If a defect is discovered in work completed before the purchase he would expect the building owner to have a remedy against either the person who carried out the survey or the previous owner.
- We consider therefore that any dispute about the quality of the work should have been clarified prior to purchase. If Mr X is unhappy with the safety or quality of work carried out to the house he may have a private remedy against the developer.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because there is no evidence of fault by the Council.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman