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Liverpool City Council (20 012 162)

Category : Planning > Building control

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 25 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint that the Council wrongly signed off her building work as compliant with the Building Regulations. This is because we cannot achieve any worthwhile outcome for Mrs X.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, Mrs X, complains the Council wrongly signed off her building work, carried out in 2006, as compliant with the Building Regulations. She started to notice cracks in the walls in 2008 which have been attributed to inadequate foundations and her insurance company has declined cover.

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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 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 reviewed Mrs X’s complaint, shared my draft decision with her and considered her response.

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What I found

  1. Mrs X had building work carried out to her property in 2006. She noticed cracks in the walls two years later and contacted the builder but the builder refused to help. She contacted her insurance company but they declined cover as the issue results from problems with the foundations and this is specifically excluded in her policy.
  2. Mrs X says the Council signed off the work to her property so she believes it should pay to put things right. She says she does not have the money to carry out the remedial work required and she trusted the Council to ensure the work was completed properly.
  3. When carrying out their functions under the Building Regulations, local authorities may visit at various stages but the number and timings of any inspections vary by local authority and type of development. Local authorities are not 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.
  4. Caselaw has established that where a local authority issues a completion certificate it does not take on responsibility or liability for substandard work; this remains with those responsible for the work rather than with the Council for signing it off. We cannot therefore say the Council is responsible for the issue in Mrs X’s case or that it should pay to put this right.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because we cannot achieve any worthwhile outcome for Mrs X.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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