Political Q +A: Pearse Doherty: The financial burden of Building Control Amendment Regulation (SI.9 of 2014)?

by bregs blog admin team

Written answers Thursday, 23 January 2014

Pearse Doherty (Donegal South West, Sinn Fein)

166. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if he has considered the financial burden placed on builders of one-off properties, such as those in rural areas building a family home, by the requirement under the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2013 to contract an assigned certifier; his plans to introduce measures to keep such costs to a minimum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3434/14]

Phil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)

An extensive public consultation process was undertaken in 2012 to inform the development of the revised building control regulations which will come into effect on 1 March 2014. Comprehensive consultation documents were published including Strengthening the Building Control System – A Document to inform public consultation on Draft Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2012 which sets out the context in which the reforms – as later signed into law in the form of S.I. No. 9 of 2014 – will operate and the regulatory impact of these for building owners and industry stakeholders. This document remains available on my Department’s website. The costs of construction activity and related professional services are determined by market forces and I am precluded by trade and competition law from introducing any measures which would interfere with the normal functioning of the market in that regard.

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Comment:

Despite over 500 stakeholder submissions on SI.80 of 2012 received by the Department no proper Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) was carried out. It appears also that no RIA was carried out on the radically different March 2013 wordings of SI.80 or the final version SI.9 of 2014. These contain wording which is “extraordinarily loose and vague” and has serious legal implications for professionals undertaking the new certifier roles according to a number of Senior Council opinions.

The RIA produced by the department in 2012 was included as very brief part of the following document “Strengthening the Building Control System – A Document to inform public consultation on Draft Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2012″. The Impact section (section 4) of the RIA is only six pages long. It does not appear to be backed up with any research. See document here

Given the extraordinary costs to be borne by the consumer every year and the anti-competitive nature of the builder’s completion certificate wording (and the proposed register of builders) we find the Minister’s last statement remarkable. Self-builders alone could be paying €23,000 extra each or €115m in total  this year alone to build their own houses when SI.9 comes into effect in March.

“… I am precluded by trade and competition law from introducing any measures which would interfere with the normal functioning of the market in that regard…”

There is a good example of how one might assess building control amendments. The “Communities and Local Government: Proposed changes to the building control system – Consultation stage impact assessment” report was produced in the UK in 2012. You can read it here. It is a 41 page dense document that comprehensively examines several options to revise and change the UK building control system. It examines numerous alternatives but discounts self-certification quite early on due to excessive cost to the consumer and industry.

The above opinion piece was submitted by Maoilíosa Mel Reynolds on 31st January 2014.
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