CROSS Safety Report
Role of approved inspectors
This report is over 2 years old
A reporter whose firm is involved in a partially built project worth £6m, where there is defective work and the builder has gone into liquidation, raises concerns over the role of the approved inspector.
Key Learning Outcomes
For homeowners and builders:
Be aware that there is no requirement in statute for an approved inspector to check plans and the client should request a plan’s certificate if they wish to have documentation of an independent design check
If the owner/developer engages an approved inspector, and the builder does not satisfy the requirements of the approved inspector then the approved inspector can ask the local authority to take over the inspection.
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A reporter’s firm is involved in a partially built project, worth £6m, where there is defective work, and the builder has gone into liquidation. The project is a 2-3 storey building in the health care sector and has load-bearing masonry walls and floors spans of up to 9m. The reporter and the client have sought the information that they would normally expect be lodged with the approved inspector concerning the structural design.
The approved inspector has told the reporter that they did not get any information except foundation drawings, a ground investigation report and architectural drawings and in their opinion, this would be: ‘all they would expect on a project of this nature’. On the basis of these drawings and the site investigation the approved inspector has not commented on the works done even though there are numerous defects in design and workmanship that may lead to demolition.
The reporter wants to know if it would be normal for an approved inspector to accept this state of affairs -or would he be correct to assume that the approved inspector is there to help achieve building regulation compliance, in which case this has not been done. Is there a scope of duties that an approved inspector, or indeed a local authority, should comply with?
The reporter believes that local authorities are exempt from negligence claims and wants to know if this applies to approved inspectors? The reporter further wonders if there any simple guide for clients, perhaps from the LABC, that could be used by construction professionals to help a client understand what he needs to consider. They think that improving the knowledge of design teams in this regard could be a quick win in improving standards and improving the position of Local Authority Building Control. Finally, they ask whether, in the case of a dispute between a consulting engineer and an approved inspector is there a way of getting the local authority involved.
Expert Panel Comments
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The responsibility for compliance with building regulations rests with the owner/developer. An approved inspector has an obligation under the regulations to ensure within the limits of professional skill and care that the work complies with the building regulations. This does not mean that there is a guarantee of compliance as that responsibility rests with the person carrying out the work and, by its very nature, the process of building control is a spot-checking process.
In the case of approved inspectors there is a contract in place with the client, which may be limited to the liabilities in the Building Act and Regulations, or a wider range of liabilities related to performance. Approved inspectors are liable to negligence claims under contract if they do not perform to the agreed scope of service. Unlike a local authority there is no requirement in statute for an approved inspector to check plans and the client should request a plan’s certificate if they wish to have documentation of an independent design check.
Inspection on site is costly for the building control provider and the number and type of inspections is a matter between a building control provider and the client. Competition between building control providers is driving prices down and that reflects in lower levels of inspections by building control bodies.
If the owner/developer engages an approved inspector, and the builder does not satisfy the requirements of the approved inspector then the approved inspector can ask the local authority to take over the inspection. In such instance, the local authority can then apply to the courts with the purpose of enforcing the building regulations.
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