If you're purchasing a new build property, you will want reassurance that it has been built to a good standard. This usually includes a ten-year new home warranty from your developer, and confirmation from the building inspector that the property is compliant with building regulations.

Building regulations are minimum standards for design, construction and alterations to virtually every building. They are developed by the Government and approved by Parliament. They cover such aspects as how deep the foundations should be, how safe the cladding is and how energy efficient the property is.

The building inspector may be an officer of the local council, or quite often, an approved inspector who is employed by the warranty provider.

However, a recent case has highlighted a problem with this regime.

A block of flats in Manchester were built very badly and with many defects. The lifts did not work, French windows opened onto non-existent balconies and finally, the fire brigade served a notice prohibiting occupation. The building inspector had done a very poor job and had knowingly made false statements when approving building works "to get the job off his desk".

In that situation, could you, as the flat owner, claim damages from the building inspector?

Because the building inspector's contract was with the developer, not the flat owners, the court decided that there was no breach of contract. Neither could there be a claim in negligence against him on the particular facts of that case.

It is always worth asking a surveyor to check over a property you are buying, even when that property is brand new.

  • David Marsden is a partner in the commercial property team at award-winning law firm VWV, which has offices in Clarendon Road, Watford