Building control

This fact sheet is aimed primarily at householders who have problems with a building control issue and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.

I have a problem with the council’s handling of a building control matter. Can the Ombudsman help me?

Only rarely:

  • Primary responsibility for building work and compliance with the Regulations rests with building owners and builders
  • Council officers will normally visit at various stages but will not be present for the great majority of the building project and do not act as a site manager or ‘clerk of works’. The council will issue a completion certificate when satisfied, after taking all reasonable steps, that the requirements of the Building Regulations have been met. A certificate is not a guarantee that all works have been done to the required standard. 

If your complaint concerns one of the following we are also unlikely to be able to help:

  • Damage to your property caused by a neighbour’s inadequate building work. This would normally be a matter for private legal action against your neighbour.
  • A decision where you have a right of appeal (for example, against the refusal of a Building Regulations application). We would normally expect you to appeal and would not normally investigate those matters.
  • A dispute about the quality of work. The quality of work is the responsibility of those who commissioned it and those who do the work. Building control officers are not supervising the work generally when ensuring compliance with the Regulations.
  • Works done before purchase. We would expect a person purchasing a property would have a full survey completed before completing the purchase. If a defect is discovered in work completed before the purchase, we would expect the building owner to have a remedy against either the person who carried out the survey or the previous owner.

What we might investigate:

  • The council providing factually incorrect information about the requirements of the Regulations, so that unnecessary works were undertaken.
  • Where the council has decided a structure is dangerous and has demolished it without giving the owner an opportunity to carry out the work.
  • Delays in carrying out inspection of enforcement works.
  • A failure to keep proper records.

How do I complain?

You should normally complain to the council first. Councils often have more than one stage in their complaints procedure and you will usually have to complete all stages before we will look at your complaint.

Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or the council is taking too long to look into the matter – we think 12 weeks is reasonable – you can complain to us.

Usually, you should complain to us within 12 months of when you first knew about the problem. If you leave it any later, we may not be able to help.

For more information on how to complain, please read our step by step process.

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?

First, we must consider whether your complaint is one we can investigate. If it is, we must then consider whether we should do so or whether there is an alternative which would be more appropriate

What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault?

It depends on the fault and what the consequences are for you. If problems were caused by the council’s error, we may recommend steps that the council should take to put things right.

In exceptional cases, where it is not possible to remedy the problem, we may ask the council to pay you a financial remedy.

We may also ask for a financial remedy for the time, trouble or expense you were put to in pursuing your complaint.

Where we find fault with the council’s procedures we will often recommend that the council introduces changes so that the same problem does not occur again in the future.

Examples of some complaints we have considered

Mr X complained the council’s building control service failed to properly inspect the drains of his house before he bought it. He said that because of this failure, his drains were not connected to the main sewer, causing significant impacts on his amenities, costs and disturbance. We found the council inspected the site and noted a further visit was needed to ensure the drains were connected to the main sewer. There is no records to show whether a further visit took place before the council gave building regulations approval. The council offered a remedy for the injustice caused to Mr X and agreed to review its practices and procedures and records keeping.
Mr X complained the council changed its position on the use of its powers to act in relation to a retaining wall between his own and his neighbour’s property. Mr X says the council told his neighbour to undertake works to the wall otherwise it would consider issuing a Notice under s77 of the Building Act 1984, as the wall could be considered a dangerous structure. The wall subsequently collapsed and the supporting structure put in place was never properly finished. Mr X complained the council then inspected the site and decided to take no further action. We found fault in the council’s processes leading to the change in its position on the use of powers under s77, the lack of a published policy and poor record keeping. The council agreed to draft a policy or document on its use of powers under s77 and publish it on its website, and to remind staff of the need to keep robust records.

Other sources of information

Government website:

Local Authority Building Control Departments membership organisation's LABC website:

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.

We provide a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result we aim to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

January 2024

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