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Council Criticised for Approving Work that Cost Homeowner £50,000

Cherwell District Council has been roundly criticised for approving roof work that later leaked and caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Charlton-on-Otmoor resident Chris Harris said that the building certificate given to him by the council was not worth the paper it was written on.

The work, which called for a change in roof materials, was completed in August 2014 but Mr Harris had to move elsewhere for 16 months the following December after leaks caused mould and damp to appear in his home.

The Local Government Ombudsman recently ruled that the council’s move basically amounted to fault, but that it could not be forced to pay for the roof to be repaired.

Mr Harris said that the repair work, temporary accommodation costs, and legal fees have set him back more than £50,000.  He tried to take the builder to court but a judge advised him that the claim was not likely to succeed.

The 43-year-old resident said that the council’s willingness to sign the work off diminishes the value of its inspection. He added that the whole event has cost him a lot of money as well as sleepless night and a loss of faith in the system.


Structural Defects Insurance

The ombudsman agreed that the work was substandard. A representative said that the inspection notes did not refer to the roof and there was no evidence that an officer carried out an external inspection of the roof. If they had, the defective work would have been readily apparent if the photographs taken by Mr Harris’ insurance company were any indication.

The ombudsman said that the council could not be ordered to pay for the damage. Courts have ruled that a council could not be held responsible for financial losses incurred by fixing a defect resulting for its failure to ensure that building regulations had been complied with.

Mr Harris is now debating the wisdom of mounting a legal challenge to force Cherwell District Council to compensate him. He has also spoken to the police.

A Thames Valley Police spokesman confirmed that it was investigating the building regulations dispute.

A Cherwell District Council spokesperson said that in light of the ombudsman's decision, it would be reviewing its record keeping for building control. She added that a building regulations certificate did not guarantee that all work had been done to the necessary standard, and that primary responsibility for the work rested with those who commissioned it and those who carried it out.

The spokesperson said that while the council will conduct building control inspections, the builder and the property owner are the ones who are primarily responsible for meeting the requirements of the regulations.

She said that Cherwell District Council acknowledged the Ombudsman’s conclusions but still insisted that the situation is an issue between Mr Harris and the builder. Case law, she pointed out, was clear that the council could not not be held responsible for failing to properly exercise its supervisory role under the building regulations.


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