Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 31 Mar 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about a building control matter. This is because it is unlikely an investigation could achieve the outcome the complainant wants.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr X, has complained the Council failed to identify serious building regulation breaches. Mr X says he had to do the Council’s work for it to prevent a dangerous building being signed off as complete. He is also unhappy with how the Council dealt with his complaint.
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 we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered Mr X’s complaint and the Council’s responses. I invited Mr X to comment on a draft of this decision.
What I found
- 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.
- The Council will normally visit the site at various stages of the build. But councils do not act as a clerk of works and the responsibility for compliance with the regulations rests with the building owners and builders. The Council’s role is to maintain the building standards for the public in general rather than protect the private interests of an individual.
- Mr X commissioned building works to his home. While the works were ongoing the Council carried out several inspections. Mr X says the building control officers failed to identify significant building regulation breaches. The defective works have since been rectified and the Council has issued the completion certificate. However, Mr X says the building control officers did not take the problems with the building works seriously and he believes the Council would have signed the works off while the building was still dangerous had he not identified the issues himself.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint. This is because it is unlikely we could achieve the outcome Mr X wants.
- Mr X says the Council failed to properly inspect the building works or notice the works did not comply with regulations. But caselaw has established that primary responsibility for building works and compliance with regulations rests with those that commission the work and those that carry it out. A council may advise on compliance, inspect the works and if appropriate issue a completion certificate. However, the courts have said councils do not assume liability for substandard works. The Ombudsman takes the same view as the courts in this regard.
- Mr X has also complained about how the Council has dealt with his complaint and says it failed to properly deal with the safeguarding concerns he raised. The Council has already apologised to Mr X for the delay in responding to his complaint. It is unlikely an investigation by the Ombudsman would achieve any more in this regard. The Council has also confirmed the building control officer forwarded Mr X’s safeguarding concerns onto children’s services.
- Mr X has said the Council should take disciplinary action against the officers involved. But the Ombudsman cannot get involved in personnel issues or recommend disciplinary action.
- We will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely an investigation could achieve the outcome the complainant wants.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman