BRegs Blog

A blog to debate the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations (BCAR): The BRegs Blog presents an opportunity for free expression of opinion on BCAR and their implementation. The blog is not representative of any professional body or organisation. Each post represents the personal opinion of that contributor and does not purport to represent the views of all contributors.

Home-owners will be no better off at the next “Priory Hall”

by bregs blog admin team

In 2014 a builder-developer purchases a site. He commissions an architect to make a planning application for an apartment block, which is granted by the local authority. The builder-developer has in-house professionals and he appoints one of these “Assigned Certifier” to inspect the site under the new regulations. The certifier  uploads the required number of drawings and documents to the local authority IT system. The local authority do not look at any of these files, nor do they ever visit the site during the course of the build. The building is therefore built in exactly the same manner as it might have been built over the boom with internal controls only, no external Local Authority controls.

The apartments are put on the market in 2015 and Mr. & Mrs. Ryan purchase one. Four years later cracks in the building begin to appear. Investigations are completed at the apartment owners’ expense by the management company. Experts announce that major remedial works will be required. The Ryans have to move out of their apartment. They must find the money to fix the problems and sue the builder and the certifier.

Meanwhile the builder-developer has gone into liquidation. As a result, the certifer lost his job and the PI insurance was cancelled. This needed to be in place when the problems appear to be of any use. Who is going to pay to fix the problem?  Is the only hope to gather public support and ask the government to step in?

Has S.I.80 changed anything for Mr. & Mrs. Ryan?

Is there an alternative?

A system of independent checks and inspections on the site would have prevented this situation from arising in the first place. If there was a problem, the local authority could have required the builder to fix the problem or taken him to court before the apartments were sold. Had hidden (latent) defects later appeared, state operated Latent Defects Insurance (LDI) would pay for the repairs immediately. The insurance company would then go on to sue the builder and the professionals, keeping the Ryans out of court.

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The UK System of Building Control

by bregs blog admin team

As we discuss the adequacy of the new building control amendment, it might be useful to look at systems in other countries. For the purposes of this post we have focused on the Building Control system in England and Wales (The differences in Northern Ireland and Scotland are addressed at the end of the document).

The Building Regulations in England and Wales are set by the Communities and Local Government (CLG).

You have two choices over who supplies your Building Control service:

1. The Local Authority Building Control section or

2. Independent ‘Approved Inspectors’

The Approved inspectors are relatively recent (since the Building Act 1984) and are licensed by the Construction Industry Council For further details on the Approved Inspectors CLICK HERE

Once you have chosen your preferred Building Control service you then have two routes to ensure you are building in accordance with the Building Regulations. When using the Local Authority Building Control method the options are:

1. Full Plans Approval

a. You submit all the construction drawings, details and specifications for inspection/checking.

b. You are then informed of any defects/amendments that need to be addressed in order to receive approval. You can receive a conditional approval where items can be addressed prior to work commencing.

For more information on the Full Plans method CLICK HERE

2. Building Notice

a. You give minimum 48 hours notice to the Local Authority of your intention to build. There is an inherent risk in proceeding in this way as you do not have the benefit of ‘approved’ plans.

For more information on Building Notice method CLICK HERE

Inspections

It is a requirement of the Building Regulations that the builder notifies the Local Authority Building Control section at various stages of the work; this triggers an inspection to ensure the work is carried out at that stage correctly. Failure to give such notice may mean that you are required to break open and expose the work at a later date.

There are minimum days on the required notice that you are required to give (normally on cards provided for this process); for details on the minimum notices and for further information on these site inspections CLICK HERE

The method if you use an Approved Inspector is slightly different in that you and the Approved Inspector jointly notify the Local Authority Building Control Section of your intention to build in an ‘Initial Notice’. Once this notice is accepted, the plans and site inspections are then checked, inspected and approved by the Approved inspector.

Completion Certificate

On completion the Local Authority Building Control Section or the Approved Inspector will issue a final completion certificate stating that the works have been constructed in accordance with the Building Regulations.

Northern Ireland and Scotland

The Approved Inspector route exists only in England and Wales and not in Northern Ireland or Scotland where you only have the Local Authority Building Control Route, although independent inspectors are envisaged in Scotland.

In Scotland the Building Regulations approval to build is called a Building Warrant. The design is approved by the local authority and the architect ‘self-certifies’ that the approved design has been built, at the end of the construction process. All newly built and newly converted dwellings are backed by designated warranty schemes (insurance) as in England and Wales.

In Northern Ireland, there is a full system of local authority inspections for all stages of all projects, even small domestic works. More information is available at http://www.buildingcontrol-ni.com/

You can read more about the systems in Scotland and Northern Ireland in the Irish Consumer Agency/ Grant Thornton Report ‘Building Regulations and their Enforcement’ available at http://corporate.nca.ie/eng/Research_Zone/Reports/Home_Construction/NCA-Home-construction-Volume-5.pdf

A special thanks to Geoff Wilkinson at TheBuildingInspector.org (Approved England and Wales Approved Building Inspectors)