Purpose - The paper seeks to define the nature of the policy problems in Dutch building control. Design/methodology/approach - The authors use Dunn's four-phase methodology for public policy analysis, consisting of problem sensing, problem search, problem definition, and problem specification. Both a literature review and a field study into the operation of local building control authorities were undertaken. The field study incorporates characteristics of a survey, with methodology developed by Fowler. Findings - Dutch building control legislation has been subject to many changes over the 100 years or so that it has been in force as it has responded to society's changing priorities. Throughout this period building regulation has become more detailed and more uniform across the country. Nevertheless, almost no legal changes have been made to the enforcement system. Responsibility for building control still lies with the municipalities and implementation is still not established by national legislation or policy document. Ongoing attempts to deregulate and standardise the legislative framework should therefore not stop at changing the regulations. Changes in the supervision system might offer an alternative route to improving the quality of the (technical) building control and clarifying the tasks and responsibilities of building control staff. Research limitations/implications - The analysis focuses on problems in building control and does not consider design and construction problems. Practical implications - The field study contains important lessons forbuilding control practitioners and policymakers regarding current deficiencies in the implementation of building control legislation. Originality/value - The paper provides a model for the analysis, and comparative study, of building control systems in other jurisdictions.