A Fisher couple say they have been abandoned by the ACT government's building regulator after it failed to properly investigate their complaints about a house under construction over their back fence.
Plans for the house on Andamooka Street were privately certified, but an independent town planner believed the project should have been subject to assessment by the planning authority.
But the builder said all work on the site had been completed in accordance with certified plans, and they had complied with directions from Access Canberra.
Lakshman Gunaratnam said he and his wife first complained to Access Canberra when multiple trucks began dumping dirt on the block behind his, but had to wait months for a reply.
Construction on the site continued, with a house taking shape that has a back deck higher than the level of Mr Gunaratnam's back fence, which he said ruins the privacy of his backyard.
"I've been appalled - it's probably not the strongest word I could use - but appalled by the complete lack of any response by the regulator," Mr Gunaratnam said.
"Despite numerous attempts on our side to use their process, we've had absolutely nothing back. There's a sense of disbelief for me, complete disbelief, that this regulator in the most regulated state has done nothing for this matter.
"And I can't imagine how many more matters have gone down this path."
Mr Gunaratnam first complained about the dirt being dumped on the block to Access Canberra and was told the Rapid Regulatory Response Team had 10 days to respond to his complaint.
It took two months for the team to respond and they only addressed the soil quality, Mr Gunaratnam said.
The builder said they had complied with directions about sediment control on the site.
A spokesman for the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development directorate said if complaints were made about a certifier's decision on development application exemptions, it would be referred to Access Canberra's compliance team.
"Access Canberra may seek advice from [the directorate] on plans as required. There is no standard timeframe and this depends on the circumstances of each case," the spokesman said.
Mr Gunaratnam made another complaint to the regulator, raising concerns the work completed so far was different to what was shown in the plans. He received a response more than three weeks later, after lawyers acting on his behalf contacted the ACT government.
Mr Gunaratnam and his wife commissioned an independent assessment of the plans, which raised questions about more than 20 aspects of the development.
The assessment, completed by Canberra Town Planning, found the new house would have a significant impact on the amenity of neighbouring blocks, "including visual impacts, privacy impacts and noise impacts".
Without a development application assessment, the impact on neighbouring blocks would not have been adequately considered, the report said.
The report took issue with the scale of the house, its garage, tree management and access to the rear sewer and electrical easement.
"It is my opinion that the proposal does not meet the Applicable Regulations to be considered Exempt Development in relation to the development of a single dwelling house," the report said.
Mr Gunaratnam said he wanted the regulator to do its job and uphold the planning regulations.
"Ultimately what we would want to seek - we're not seeking any sort of monetary compensation - we want to see the building built in accordance with the rules. So if it means the whole thing has to be torn down, that's what we want to see," he said.
The rapid regulatory response team within Access Canberra aims to complete a preliminary assessment of a complaint within five working days.
"This includes, where required, undertaking an inspection of the site that is the subject of the complaint. Within this period, Access Canberra inspectors aim to determine whether there is or is likely to be a breach that requires further investigation. This assessment will be communicated to the person making the complaint," Access Canberra said on its website.
Sustainable Building and Construction Minister Rebecca Vassarotti did not respond to written questions before deadline.
Last year the ACT government announced it would take over building certification for complex multi-unit residential projects and employ a team of government certifiers.
The ACT's private certifier system, which has been widely criticised, means the owners of the land appoint the person who will assess the work completed, which critics say can lead to conflicts of interest.
The Sunday Canberra Times does not suggest a conflict of interest in the case of the house development on Andamooka Street.
A 2014 audit report which examined single dwelling development assessments found the ACT planning authority's safeguards to monitor certifiers' decisions were inadequate.
"Importantly, there is no auditing undertaken of the fundamental decision made by a certifier on whether or not to exempt a development and therefore undertake the assessment themselves, rather than inform a homeowner that the development should be subjected to the Directorate's Development Application process," the audit report said.
The report noted 67 per cent of building surveyors surveyed in 2012 by the ACT government said they had lost work by refusing to approve an application with insufficient information.
The audit report cleared planning authorities of improper influence in retroactively approving a double-storey house owned by then ACT public service commissioner Andrew Kefford in Gawler Street, Deakin.
Plans for the house were approved by a certifier, but community pressure after it was built forced a subsequent investigation which found issues with the design.
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