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North Somerset Council (20 010 194)

Category : Planning > Building control

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 17 Feb 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr Q’s complaint that the Council’s Building Control officers failed to identify defective building works at a property he later bought. This is because it is unlikely we could achieve the outcome he wants.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I have called Mr Q, complained about North Somerset Council’s Building Control officers. He said they failed to identify defects when they inspected the roof and a gable wall of a property he later bought. Mr Q has had to pay to rectify the defects.

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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 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 considered the information Mr Q provided. I invited Mr Q to comment on a draft of this decision.

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What I found

Background

  1. Most building work requires Building Regulations approval.
  2. Primary responsibility for ensuring building work meets the required standards lies with those who commission the work and those who carry it out. Building Control officers may visit at various stages but they will not be present for the majority of the project. They do not act as a clerk of works.
  3. The courts have established that councils are not liable for the cost of correcting a defect caused by any failure to comply with Building Regulations.

What happened

  1. Mr Q bought a house. He later started roofing works. Mr Q’s roofer discovered that roofing works done by the previous owner were defective. The roofer also discovered a gable wall was poorly constructed.
  2. Mr Q believes the Council’s Building Control officers failed to identify the defective works during their inspections. He said he had paid for remedial works and had started legal action against the former owner. But he believes the Council should also contribute towards his costs because of its failings.
  3. The Council does not accept its Building Control officers did anything wrong.

Assessment

  1. We will not investigate this complaint.
  2. As I said above, primary responsibility for ensuring building works meet the required standards lies with those who commission the work and those who carry it out. This is typically the homeowner and their builder, not a council.
  3. In any event, as the courts have decided councils are not liable for the cost of correcting substandard work, we are unable to ask the Council to contribute to the cost of Mr Q’s remedial works. So we are unlikely to achieve the outcome he wants.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr Q’s complaint because we cannot achieve the outcome he wants.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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