Local authority vs independent building control inspector

It's most likely that you will need building control approval for your renovation project. In England & Wales, building regulations approval will be granted by either your local authority building control or through an independent building control inspector. 

We take a look in a bit more detail about a how the independent building control inspector differs from using the local authority.

What is the difference between using the local authority vs an independent building control inspector?

Building regulations remain the same and therefore your project will receive the same rigour and advice from either the local authority or independent building control inspector. An independent building control inspector is authorised by the council to sign off your building regulations and issue you with a completion certificate. The process of application is slightly different for both.

How does the process differ?

If you use a local authority inspector, you will apply for approval to your council via the government's planning portal. Often your structural engineer or architect will do this on your behalf. 

If you are working with an independent building control inspector then you will apply through them and they will notify your local authority of your project, which is called giving 'initial notice'. As the building owner, you must make sure that building regulations have been met, so make sure the independent building control inspector has given initial notice. 

Whether you are working with the local authority or an approved inspector, they will visit your property at key stages to give your builder advice and guidance and check that the work complies with the regulations. The stages and the amount of times they visit will depend on your individual project. You are responsible for notifying the building inspector when the work has commenced and when you have reached key stages. 

Both will inspect the work upon completion to ensure the work complies with building regulations and issue a completion certificate. The independent building control inspector will issue a final certificate to the local authority to confirm that the work is complete, has been inspected, and complies with the regulations.

How do the fees vary between the local authority vs an independent inspector?

Normally the local authority and independent inspector will charge roughly the same. In both instances the fees will vary depending on the complexity and scale of your project. The local authority publish fees on their website whereas the approved inspector will quote based on the job.

Are there benefits of using an independent inspector over the local authority?

If you use an independent building control inspector, you may be more likely to have a dedicated inspector which could prove beneficial if your project is complex. Additionally, with an independent inspector you can choose who you work with based on there experience. You may also find that an approved building control inspector will be more flexible in terms of site visits and office hours. 

If your project is niche then you may find it easier working with an independent inspector who has a lot of experience in that particular type of work, which may make the process quicker to reach solutions.

Are there any drawbacks to using an independent  inspector?

Both a local authority inspector and independent building control inspector will carry out the same duties and follow the same rules, so there should be no drawbacks in terms of the advice given. However, only the local authority has the power of enforcement therefore if there are problems with your project that can't be resolved then the independent inspector will need to hand it over to the local authority.

Some homeowners also find that the local authority will carry out more inspections which may prove to be more rigorous along the way.

How do I find an independent building control inspector near me?

You can find an approved independent inspector by visiting the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI).

Any other advice?

A good building control inspector will ask lots of questions and offer a lot of advice on your project, so make sure you form a good relationship and engage with them as early as possible on your project, regardless of whether it's the local authority or an independent inspector.

If you are using an independent building inspector, make sure they come recommended. Ask your architect or builder if they have worked with an independent inspector that they would recommend.  

No matter who you use, make sure you keep your copy of the completion certificate safe - this is important when you come to sell your home.



Published: January 17, 2019

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