Appeal to Minister Hogan: BC(A)R SI.9

by bregs blog admin team

self-build-is-childs-play-with-buildstore

Self-builder Amanda Gallagher has written the following appeal to Minister Phil Hogan regarding the Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). The unintended consequences of the new building regulations on all building types, on the self-build and the farming sector in particular, are remarkable given that from a legal perspective BC(A)R SI.9 provides no additional consumer protection. Quote from Deirdre Ni Fhloinn, specialist construction lawyer and consultant at Reddy Charlton Solicitors, author of previous post “Will BC(A)R SI.9 bring any benefit to consumers?“: “There are no new legal rights or remedies for consumers created by BCAR 2014. Rather, the benefits to consumers are intended to result from improvements in the building process, such as the requirement for an assigned certifier to devise and implement an inspection plan.” Amanda Gallagher’s letter to the Minister to follow:

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Re: Self Builders role under SI 9

Dear Minister Hogan,

My name is Amanda Gallagher, and myself and my husband, Raymond were going to self build our new family home in Co. Sligo.  I say ‘were’ because on Saturday, March 1st last you essentially banned self building / direct labour in Ireland – by implementing the SI 9 you have taken our dream from us, our five young children were looking forward to a new life in the country – and you have erased it all. We have outgrown our 3 bed council house and were going to construct a beautiful home – at all times we would comply with the Building Regulations – including Part L – and we were open to inspections from the Building Control Authority at any stage.

Minister, the reason I write to you is that I am utterly shocked at the deplorable treatment we are receiving from you and your Department – and not only us, by the way, the entire Irish Nation.  I cannot fathom why you cannot be truthful with us Minister?   I have just seen Parliamentary Questions from yesterday, March 26th, where Stephen Donnelly questioned you about SI 105 – in your answer you state that the President of the RIAI asked you to defer the implementation of SI 9 on January 15th last.  Minister, on Friday, February 28th last, you were interviewed on RTE Radio’s Morning Ireland Programme and when you were asked about the RIAI pleading for a deferral on that day and you answered ‘I don’t know why they are coming out a day before seeking a deferral when they have been ‘on board’ for the past two years’ or words to that effect.  I knew that day when I heard that interview that you were misleading the nation – and yesterday you confirmed it.

I wrote to you on January 13th last, your Private Secretary emailed me back with this Ref.  REP4355/PH/13 and told me he would answer our questions as soon as possible – well you must be extremely busy in your Department as it is now March 27th and I am still awaiting his reply! I suppose my questions were too hard to answer – I don’t think so – one of them was: Why can a building owner not choose his ‘builders’ from a public Register of Qualified Tradesmen as opposed to your idea of a private Register of ‘competent’ Builders (CIRI).  I’m not sure if you realise, but it is not possible for a building contractor to guarantee he is ‘competent’. as the only guarantee of competence would be if a builder could show me his qualification, just like a registered nurse for example, she can guarantee me that she is competent because she has a tangible qualification in her hand, and as there is no ‘school for builders’ then i’m afraid he can’t prove he is competent. I do hope you take note of this fact before you put CIRI on a statutory footing next year, you must consider a Register of Qualified Tradesmen available to the general public at each Local Authority.  This would ensure that each man on this list would have a fair chance at employment.  You know if you need a water connection you MUST choose a Registered Contractor from the Local Authority’s List – a water connection costing approx 1,400 euro – but for a house costing approx 200,000 you are saying we MUST choose a builder, who cannot beyond any shadow of a doubt prove that he is ‘competent’- from a private Register of ‘builders’ – nonsense! Why was CIRI not made statutory before you implemented the SI 9 – because for the next year – the general public may still employ a ‘cowboy’ to construct their homes – it is the same thing as opening a restaurant without the ‘menu’ being in place? It is laughable.

Minister, the SI 9 really is the most confusing piece of legislation I have ever come across.  One of the purposes of laws is to maintain social order – well the SI 9 have all the ingredients for social unrest.  My husband sees his friend nearing completion of his beautiful self build home a few fields down from our site. Meanwhile you have put handcuffs on my husband and basically told us to stay where we are – we will never, ever be able to double our budget to have enough to employ a main Building Contractor, an Assigned Certifier and Project Supervisor – how do you think my husband feels?

We are one of 1,800 families this year alone – families who have to abandon their futures.  You made no provision for people who were in the planning process already – we had spent thousands on architects fees and site tests – have you no regard for the Citizens that you are elected to protect? I see you made provision for other Departments with the implementation of SI 105 – I must tell you Minister, that was a real ‘kick in the teeth’ to self builders.

Minister, I wouldn’t be half as upset about all of this if the SI 9 actually protected consumers in the future against the building control disasters such as Priory Hall – but they do absolutely nothing to protect anyone.  It is a scandalous sham. It is quite clear to me that the clear winners here are the CIF – i’m sure their worst nightmare would have been an Independent Building Inspectorate!

There has been alot of talk of you and the Dept. ‘clamping down’ on the black market – this is supposedly one of the reasons for the citizens having to employ a main building contractor under SI 9.  My husband pays his taxes, the USC etc.. he is a fine electrician and was going to construct our home with his blood, sweat & tears – at weekends, evenings and during his holidays – all materials would be top spec, purchased from he local builders merchants etc.. we would be employing some trades, plasterers for example – now we presume they are all tax compliant – as they presume we are. It would have also been a ‘hobby’ for my husband to build our home.  I don’t see where the black market fits in to all of this?

Surely when you talk of the black market you couldn’t be talking about plumbers doing a favour for their electrician friends and vice versa – this Minister is called ‘good will, being neighbourly, expressing charity’ surely you haven’t forgotten what these are? Why must everything revolve around money?

Minister, there has also been confusion surrounding the cost of the SI 9 to the building owner.  You say 1,000 to 3,000, I say 20,000, the actual professionals estimate nearer to mine than yours, and we could go on and on about costs till the cows come home but the actual truth is at the moment, under SI 9, anyone intending to self build will NOT FIND AN ASSIGNED CERTIFIER to work with them – therefore as you well know – self build / direct labour does not exist in Ireland anymore. This is a very sad statement  – self build does not exist in Ireland anymore.  The Irish are a nation of Self Builders, I would even go so far as to say you nor I would exist to day if our great grandfathers were told they could not build family homes.  What would our ancestors think of these restrictive laws? You would be in big trouble with them!

You may not realise the torment that the SI 9 have caused the citizens of this beautiful nation since March 1st. I do.

There are families with shattered dreams – their house plans in the bin, there are tradesmen nervous about the future – they are not ‘in’ with a main building contractor – they cannot even come up with the 738 euro to register on CIRI  – they may never work again – they are in the same boat as Draughtsmen, Architectural Technologists, Architects (who never just got on the RIAI’s Register) who have literally lost their livelihoods, there are Assigned Certifiers who have to face clients and give the ‘bad news’ of the actual cost to certify a project and have the client look at them in horror because the cost is nowhere near the minute amount you said it would cost, the same Assigned Certifiers are upset at your suggestion that some of them may try to exploit their client, there are Building Control Authority staff that can’t cope with the confusion in their office, there are Local Election Candidates getting doors slammed shut on them, there are the farming community who haven’t even began to comprehend what your after doing to them, and then there are the three professional bodies who don’t know what to tell their members in relation to self building – because they are waiting for you to make the statement first. You have done no favours for the local authority housing lists – they have just got alot longer or for the general mental health of the nation. These are no ‘wild exaggerations’ by the way – I kid you not.

Minister, no matter what you ‘say’ on Radio, via email or in the Dail regarding self building – this will not change the Law of the Land – and that Law now states that to construct a home you must be a principal or director of a building company ONLY.  We are not directors of a building company.  Minister, you really only have three options now – you either amend the wording on these certificates to include the words ‘self builder / building owner’, you make a public statement informing the nation that they CANNOT self build or you can revoke SI 9 and implement one of the other sensible solutions that have been put forward to you – a solution that would not inflict so much hurt on people.  You must stop the silly antics – too many people are affected. Remember it is always the right time to do the right thing.

I am looking forward to your reply and your reply from my original correspondence!

Regards to you at this most difficult time in Building Control,

Mrs Amanda Gallagher

Co. Sligo

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