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?
- Council officers will not be present for the great majority of the building project and do not act as a ‘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. Primary responsibility for the building work rests with those who commission it and those who do the work.
- The courts have held that the expense incurred by a subsequent purchaser of a house in putting right a construction defect which is discovered before there is any injury to a person or property (other than the defect itself) was pure economic loss and could not be recovered. This decision was partly based on public policy considerations. The Ombudsman, for the same reasons, would not normally impose a remedy the courts have said should not apply.
If your complaint concerns one of the following we are also unlikely to be able to help.
- Personal injury or damage to belongings. The courts may award compensation and the Ombudsman would normally consider it reasonable for you to take legal action.
- 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). The Ombudsman 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.
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.
- A complaint from an affected neighbour about the council failing to take enforcement action against a significant breach of the Regulations.
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.
You should normally make your complaint to us within 12 months of realising that the council has done something wrong.
To complain to the Ombudsman phone our helpline on 0300 061 0614 (8.30am to 5.00pm, Mondays to Fridays). You will be able to discuss your complaint with one of our advisers. You can text us on 0762 481 1595.
You can complete an online complaint form.
If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?
We consider complaints that the council has done something wrong which has caused you problems. So we look at what effect the council’s error has had and what problems this caused for you.
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 compensation.
We may also ask for compensation 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
Other sources of information
Government website www.gov.uk/government/topics/planning-and-building.
Local Authority Building Control Departments membership organisation's LABC website: www.labc.uk.com
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.