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London Borough of Southwark (20 011 132)

Category : Planning > Building control

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 26 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about how the Council dealt with a building regulation application. This is because we are unlikely to find fault. The Council has also already provided a suitable remedy for issues with its complaint handling.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr X has complained the Council failed to properly process his building regulation application in 2015. Mr X says this has caused him difficulties selling his home and he has incurred additional costs resolving the matter. Mr X is also unhappy with how the Council has handled his complaint.

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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 we could add to any previous investigation by the Council.

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

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered Mr X’s complaint and the Council’s response. I invited Mr X to comment on a draft of this decision and have considered his comments in response.

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What I found

  1. Most building work will require building regulation approval. The regulations will set the standards for design, construction and ensure the health and safety of the people living in or around the building.
  2. The Council will normally visit the site at various stages of the build and will issue a completion certificate if the works are compliant with regulations. If the work is not compliant the Council will give advice on how it can be made so.

What happened

  1. In 2015, Mr X was carrying out works to his property. He contacted the Council and made an application for building regulation approval. An officer from the Council visited on a few occasions while the works were ongoing. After its final visit it asked Mr X to send further information including the structural design and calculations. Mr X sent this information, but his email was not received by the Council due to the size of the attached file. The Council asked Mr X to send this information again.
  2. In 2020, Mr X decided to sell his property. However, in the process he discovered he did not have a completion certificate from the Council for the works he had carried out in 2015. Mr X contacted the Council and was told he would need to pay an additional fee as more than three years had past since it last dealt with his case. Mr X paid the fee, and the completion certificate was issued in December 2020.
  3. Mr X has complained the Council did not properly deal with the matter in 2015. He says this has caused him considerable stress and he believes the Council should refund the fee he has paid. Mr X also says he has been contacted by the Council since it issued the completion certificate and told this may not be valid. Mr X says this has caused him further stress.

Assessment

  1. I will not investigate this complaint about how the Council dealt with Mr X’s application for building regulation approval. This is because I am unlikely to find fault.
  2. It was Mr X’s responsibility to ensure his building works complied with the relevant regulations. Mr X was also aware the Council needed him to send it further information to deal with his application. I understand Mr X did send the requested details, but he knew the Council was having difficulties receiving this information and he also would have been aware he did not receive a completion certificate at the time. Due to the difficulties, it would have been reasonable for Mr X to chase the Council to ensure it had all it needed to deal with the application. It is unlikely I could say the Council was at fault in this regard as it did not have enough information to complete Mr X’s application. I understand Mr X says the Council should refund the second building regulation application fee he paid. But the Council would have needed to carry out further work in 2020 before it could issue the completion certificate and it was entitled to charge for this.
  3. Mr X has also raised concerns about whether the completion certificate issued is valid. However, in response to Mr X’s complaints, the Council has said the certificate has been issued confirming the works are to the correct standard and there are no outstanding issues. It has apologised if Mr X was given misleading information in this regard.
  4. Mr X has complained about how the Council dealt with his complaint. The Council accepts it has not dealt with the matter as it should have. However, it has already apologised which I consider a suitable remedy in the circumstances.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because we are unlikely to find fault with how the Council dealt with Mr X’s building regulation application. It has already provided a suitable remedy for its complaint handling.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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