Political Q+A: Olivia Mitchell & Tommy Broughan: The Self-Builder Question?

by Bregs Blog admin team

Question No s . 544 and 554

Chun an Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil:

To the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government:

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the submissions from a group (details supplied) about the certification requirements contained in the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014; and if the regulations will be amended to reflect the concerns outlined by the group in question.

– Thomas P. Broughan.

The Irish Association of Self Builders

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will reconsider the proposed amendment S.I number 9 of the Building Control Amendment Regulations 2013 which if introduced could discourage the tradition of self builders here; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Olivia Mitchell.

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 28th January, 2014.

Ref No s : 3932/14   and 4147/14

REPLY

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Mr. P. Hogan)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 544 and 554   together. The new Building Control Amendment Regulations which come into operation on 1 March 2014 will greatly strengthen the arrangements currently in place for the control of building activity by requiring greater accountability in relation to compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory certification of design and construction, lodgement of compliance documentation, mandatory inspections during construction and validation and registration of certificates.

The new regulations are necessary following the widespread instances of failure by owners, designers and builders to comply with their statutory obligations under the Building Control Act 1990 to design and construct buildings in accordance with the building regulations. These obligations apply to all sectors of the housing market, including the self-build sector.

Neither the Building Control Act or any regulations thereunder, including the new Building Control Regulations , place any restrictions on whom an owner may assign as a builder once the owner is satisfied that the builder is competent to undertake the works involved. An owner who intends to self-build will assume responsibility for ensuring that building or works concerned will comply with the requirements of the second schedule to the building regulations. They must undertake to do everything necessary to achieve this and to ensure they are in a position to certify the building or works on completion thereby taking legal responsibility as builder. The new regulations also require an owner to assign a competent, registered professional to certify the design prior to commencement and to inspect the works during construction so that the assigned certifier is in a position, in conjunction with the owner-builder, to sign a certificate of compliance on completion. A   building project cannot proceed until such assignment s   (which may be one and the same person) ha ve been made. Confidence in the builder will be a key factor influencing a professional’s decision on accepting a role as assigned certifier , in particular, and owners who intend to self-build will need to be aware of this.

My Department will be happy to liaise with the Irish Association of Self-Builders in relation to their concerns and to assist them in understanding their obligations in the context of the new regulations.

 

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The Building Control Amendment  Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) comes into effect on 1st March 2014 and will apply to all new houses or extensions greater than 40 sq meters on which work is due to commence after that date.  The regulations place an obligation on the owner of a building to appoint a competent builder to undertake the works and to give notice to the Local Authority of the name of that builder before the work starts.  The builder is required to submit an undertaking to the Local Authority that he is competent to undertake the works and to ensure that anyone he employs will also be competent. He also undertakes to the Local Authority to build the building in accordance with the design and to follow the inspection plan and that he will certify that the building or works will comply with the building regulations, when it is complete.  At the completion of the works the builder has to sign an undertaking known as the certificate of compliance on completion confirming that the building has been completed in accordance with the plans calculations, specifications etc and that the building complies with the Building Regulations. 

The extract of SI.9 of 2014 of the Builder’s certificate of compliance is shown below- It will be noted that the certificate is  “to be signed by a Principal or Director of a building company only” under the signature for builder, making clear the intention of the legislation.

SI9 Builder's cert

These are onerous statutory duties, which, if not complied with, will mean that the building does not comply and should not be occupied and may encounter difficulties if ever the building is to be sold or mortgaged.  There is no provision within the regulations to rectify any of this after the event. That will need new legislation. There is also the problem that the builder who signs the certificates may be liable to future purchasers where defects in the construction are subsequently discovered

• The question arises for the normal self-builder as to what constitutes a competent builder and is a self-builder who has no previous experience of building houses entitled to certify as the builder.  On the face of it, it is difficult to see how a self-builder with no previous experience could claim to be competent by reference to any known measure of competence. Whatever about the present situation, the regulations anticipate that builders will be registered under the new registration scheme proposed by the Construction Industry Federation.  It is intended that this will be a statutory requirement within the foreseeable future. When that happens only builders registered with the CIF will be accepted as competent to build houses or extensions to which the regulations apply. The CIF have set the standard of competence for builders wishing to join the register as the following:

• Practical experience of working in construction, generally for a period of no less than 3 years; 

• Knowledge/understanding of the legislative and regulatory context in which construction is practiced; 

• Delivery of construction services/ construction management experience; 

• Adherence to Code of Ethics and Member Obligations applicable; 

• Commitment to CPD /ongoing training and development; 

• An acceptable record which demonstrates compliance with regulatory requirements pertinent to the industry. 

The Government has made it clear that it supports the CIF in establishing this register and has, by implication, accepted the standard which has been set.  There is little possibility that the majority of self-builders will meet this level of compliance.

Against this background It is then surprising to note the answers to questions by Tommy Brougan TD and Olivia Mitchell TD which were made to the Minister Phil Hogan on behalf of the Self-Builders on Tuesday 28th January 2014. It would appear that the Minister does not concur with the Department’s/CIF’s interpretation of SI.9 and his statement suggests the explicit wording above on the Builder’s certificate of compliance places no restriction on owners to nominate themselves in this role.

This difference of opinion between the Minister and those that will be implementing SI.9 should be of great concern to the 5,000 self-builders who this year may embark on probably the largest single investment of their lives.

The Minister has now confused the matter by saying that there is “no restriction on whom an owner may assign as a builder once the owner is satisfied that the builder is competent to undertake the works involved.”  By definition most self-builders will not be “competent” in accordance with the standards adopted by the CIF and supported by the the minister’s department. There is no possibility that they can comply when the CIF’s register is formally adopted as part of the statutory process.

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Iaosb response to the Minister Hogans reply letter regarding S.I.9 2014 – Irish Association of Self Builders

http://www.iaosb.com/iaosb response to the minister hogans reply lette.html

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