A Birmingham couple who were given the wrong advice about their loft conversion by a council officer will receive thousands of pounds in compensation, a local government watchdog has ruled today.
Birmingham City Council have been ordered to pay the couple the costs connected with aborting the conversion plus £500 for the inconvenience involved.
The Local Government Ombudsman, Patricia Thomas, has found the council guilty of maladministration causing injustice.
But Mrs Thomas recognises that more was expected of the council than was reasonable by the complainants, who cannot be named for legal reasons. The couple chose to use a method of obtaining approval for their works once they were completed, which was described as "inherently risky" by Mrs Thomas.
"However, at one point an officer clearly failed to advise correctly and, as a result, the complainants continued with work that has proved abortive," she adds.
The dispute centres on a loft conversion that the couple were carrying out at their two- storey Birmingham property.
The couple decided against seeking planning permission before the work was carried out. This Full Plans Route would have involved them submitting detailed plans and having them approved.
Instead they took the 'Building Notice' route, which allows them to carry out the work first and then have it inspected and approved when it is completed, if planning officials have no objections.
This option is more risky, and it was only after considerable work had been carried out on the loft conversion that it was brought to the couple's attention that it would have broken fire regulations.
The council was not legally obliged to alert the couple of problems with their conversion works as they were being carried out.
However, an officer gave the couple the wrong advice which confused fire regulations for two-storey and one-storey properties.
A council spokeswoman said: " We accept the Ombudsman's findings in relation to this case and her acknowledgement that the complainant's chosen method of obtaining approval under Building Regulations was inherently risky and one under which the council could not be expected to offer advice without their clear prompting. We have already indicated our willingness to compensate the complainants on receipt of evidence of the cost of any abortive works."