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CROSS Safety Report

Independence of Approved Inspectors

Report ID: 507 Published: 1 July 2015 Region: CROSS-UK

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Overview

A reporter believes public awareness should be raised regarding the possibility that building control can be performed under a business to business commercial contract for the interest of someone other than property owners.

Key Learning Outcomes

For homeowners and domestic clients:

  • Be aware that building control approval can be obtained from a private company as well as from the local council

  • If the route for obtaining building control approval has not been discussed with you, seek clarification on how this will be achieved

  • If you wish to make a complaint against an approved inspector, CICAIR Limited, the body responsible for deciding all applications for approved inspector status in England and Wales, should be approached

For construction professionals:

  • The route for obtaining building control should be discussed with the client to ensure they are fully informed

  • There is a ‘Building Control Performance Standards’ book which sets out what is generally expected of Building Control Bodies

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Owners, who provided this report, contracted a house extension company (Company A) who claimed to handle all aspects of the house extension (However they were actually only responsible for plan/ design and contract management between the client and the independent building contractor they nominated).

Contractual obligations

Company A's contractual obligations included obtaining building control approval for plan/design and bringing the project to completion. A series of defects started surfacing after the completion of the project. It was then discovered by the owners that the building control inspector was not from the local council but a private company, an approved inspector, Company B.

Company A explained that the altered design and the consequent works were checked and approved by the inspector, and the Inspector insisted that no contraventions were found during their periodic inspections.

Inspection records

The owners requested that the inspector provide a basic record of the inspections: when and what was inspected. However, this request was rejected because the inspector was contracted by Company A and had no contractual obligations to the homeowner. It was also discovered the approved inspector signed and submitted the initial notice to the council on behalf of the owners with an accompanying letter stating they had authorisation. This had not been asked for or granted.

Is it standard practice whereby an architect/designer or the builder can pick and choose the approved inspector and enter into a contract themselves without any involvement of the property owner?

Is it standard practice whereby an architect/designer or the builder can pick and choose the approved inspector and enter into a contract themselves without any involvement of the property owner?

The owners in this case believe public awareness should be raised regarding the possibility that building control can be performed under a business to business commercial contract for the interest of someone other than property owners, rather than for the safety of the people in and around the building.

Expert Panel Comments

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A homeowner has the choice of where to get building regulation approval for building work; either through local authority building control or by an approved inspector. When a builder is appointed they may arrange for building regulation approval on behalf of the owner although the owner may not realise this. If an approved inspector is chosen by the builder an ‘Initial Notice’ is submitted to advise the local authority of the position.

Complaints against an approved inspector

It can be argued that there may be a flaw in the system in that homeowners are not always aware that the builder has decided to use an approved inspector, or indeed the local authority, even though the responsibility is ultimately theirs. In the case of a complaint against an approved inspector, CICAIR Limited, the body responsible for deciding all applications for approved inspector status in England and Wales, should be approached. 

In respect of complaints against local authorities the Local Government Ombudsman can be contacted after exhausting internal complaints procedures.

Building control bodies

It is worth noting that building control bodies do not have to inspect everything, but to satisfy themselves as far as reasonably practicable that the works comply.  The scope of services applicable to the work a client can expect from an approved inspector/local authority building control is set out in legislation, either the building regulations/building act or the building (approved inspector) regulations.

There is also a ‘Building Control Performance Standards’ book which sets out what is generally expected of Building Control Bodies (BCBs). A question often asked is whether BCBs can be held responsible for breaches of duty. If there is a breach of building regulations, then that is primarily the responsibility of the client and not of building control.

Any action to be taken for a breach would be against the client, who may in turn have rights against his designer or contractor. Action can be taken against a BCB for not administering the regulations correctly (i.e. the duties placed upon them by the regulations). In the case of a local authority, this would be taken up by the ombudsman.  However, clients’ direct rights against BCBs are limited.

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