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Can I bring a claim against Building Control?

IMAGE: Building Control Office on a Construction Site

IMAGE: Building Control Office on a Construction SiteBuilding Control Officers are employed by the Local Authority or may be approved private inspectors or self-certified contractors.  If the intended works of construction require Building Regulations’ approval, then the plans must be sent to the inspector who will carry out inspections and sign off the work as that progresses.

When faced with an insolvent builder, is there an alternative case that can be pursued against the Building Control Officer who signed off defective work? The answer is ‘no’, save in limited circumstances. The recent decision of R (Gresty and another) v Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council confirms this.

In that case the Local Authority’s Building Control Department approved the Claimant’s plans for an extension and visited the site during construction.  The building works were defective and there were serious failures to comply with current Building Regulations.  Substantial remedial works were required.  The Grestys obtained Judgment against the builder for £79,775.64.  Unfortunately the builder’s financial situation made recovery of the monies impossible.

The Grestys tried to tackle matters another way by asserting the Council were guilty of maladministration in a failure to discharge statutory duties such that the Council was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights by not restoring their home under Article 8.  The Council disagreed and the Grestys sought permission for Judicial Review of that decision.

The Court decided there was no obligation on the Council:

  • Under English law in the absence of a contract between the Grestys and the Council (which there was not), there was no private law remedy nor is there a public duty.
  • Had the condition of the Gresty’s home been such they could not occupy it, then the Council would have an obligation under Homelessness Legislation to re-house them.
  • This was an isolated not a continuing breach.
  • The consequences of the breach were not so extreme as the house was not dangerous and the defects could be remedied.
  • The Local Authority’s responsibility was secondary to the primary liability of the contractor.

Whilst an obligation could exist under Article 8, this would only apply in the most extreme cases.

It is therefore important as far as possible to establish the builder is financially stable so that if the works go wrong the builder can afford the remedial work or to satisfy any Judgment.

By Sarah PayneLitigation Solicitor at Cambridge solicitors Barr Ellison. (You can reach Sarah on 01223 417200 or s.payne@barrellison.co.uk.)

Disclaimer: While we do all that is possible in terms of ensuring its accuracy, this blog contains general information only. Nothing in these pages constitutes legal advice. You need to consult a suitably qualified lawyer from the firm on any specific legal problem or matter.

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