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Forest Heath District Council (18 015 805)

Category : Planning > Building control

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 04 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complains the Council failed to respond to his complaint about a breach of building control regulations by his neighbour. And that it refused to make reasonable adjustments for him. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is too late. And it is unlikely we will find fault. Also, it is unlikely that further investigation will lead to a different outcome.

The complaint

  1. Mr X says the Council failed to respond to his concerns about work carried out at his neighbour’s home. He says the officer he spoke to was difficult and rude and did not write to him to let him know what had happened.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
  3. 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
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A (6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information provided by Mr X, including the Council’s response to his complaint. He provided information following receipt of the draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr X says in 2017 his neighbour put a cable down to provide electricity to their shed. They ran the cable from a socket and he believed it was not on the ring main but on a spur. Nor did he believe the shed was earthed.
  2. Mr X says the officer he spoke to in July 2017 was rude and did not want to do anything about his concerns. He says when he complained he was told to put it in writing. He also says he was told the Council could not tell him about his neighbours wiring because of data protection.
  3. Mr X later complained to the Council.
  4. The Council says it received a call from a resident concerned that a neighbour had breached part P of the Building Regulations 2010. It says the officer asked the caller to put their concerns in writing so that it had a clear statement. And, as the caller wanted to know the outcome of any enquiries the Council needed their contact details. The caller told them they needed reasonable adjustments in the form of making a verbal complaint. The Council says the officer asked for the caller’s name and address. It says the officer terminated the call because the caller refused to give their contact details.
  5. The Council also says that during the telephone conversation the caller asked for a written report including the inspections note. And details of work carried out at his neighbour’s property. The officer told the caller the Council does not offer this service. And it could not give out details about his neighbour’s property as there would be data protection and environmental information restrictions on this information. It did however, confirm it would inspect the property and require remedial work to be carried out if necessary. And, if the caller provided contact details it would write to him once it was satisfied the work complied with regulations.
  6. Sometime later Mr X complained to the Council about the way it had handled his concerns. The Council was able to let him know what records it had as stated above. It also confirmed it had inspected the property and his neighbour’s electrical work was compliant with part P of the Building Regulations 2010.

Assessment

  1. The law says a complaint must be made to the Ombudsman before the end of the permitted period. This is 12 months from the day the complainant first became aware of the matter. The incident Mr X complains about occurred in 2017. Therefore, the complaint is late. However, I have discretion to investigate a late complaint if there are good reasons to do so.
  2. I understand Mr X is dissatisfied with the way the officer dealt with his telephone call. And he says he needs to know whether the work at his neighbour property is safe. However, it appears he refused to provide his contact details to the officer when he telephoned. Therefore, the Council could not provide him with any details once it had inspected the property. But it has now confirmed in writing to Mr X that it inspected the property and is satisfied the electrical work complies with building regulations.
  3. Also, when he asked for reasonable adjustments it agreed to take the details of his complaint over the telephone. Although this did not progress at the time as he refused to provide his contact details.
  4. Because of the above I do not consider there are any compelling reasons for me to exercise discretion and investigate this late complaint.

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Final decision

  1. I will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is made too late. And it is unlikely we would find fault in the way the Council handled his original call. Or that further investigation would be likely to lead to a different outcome.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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