Complaint to Minister: Fee fixing & BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

customer-complaint

Here is a personal complaint sent by a “competent registered professional” to the the Minister and his Department concerning fee fixing and distortion of the market in early March 2014. As the complaint is personal the author has requested their name be removed from the post.

In our recent post “The Engineers Journal: how BC(A)R SI.9 works in practice” architect and RIAI representative Orla Fitzgerald noted the time required to discharge duties of new certifier roles “...a requirement for an additional 18 days of input“. One of the group of three architects that made up a key negotiator group on behalf of the representative body for architects (RIAI) with the Department in the formation of SI.9, this time assessment is at odds with the Minister’s much-repeated estimate for additional costs for BC(A)R SI.9 at between €1000 to €3000 for a typical project. 

The RIAI has also issued advice at a February 2014 CPD event suggesting 160 hours was required for a typical house for these roles. Based on the Minister’s cost range this would indicate €6.25 per hour as an hourly rate including vat at 23% for a competent engineer/ surveyor or architect to undertake these duties, a remarkably low figure which would normally include expenses, office overheads, insurances and travel expenses.

Given that self-builders have taken issue with Minister Hogan’s recent statements on the matter of costs in a Seanad debate (see post here), we wonder have any of the representative bodies concerned, engineers, surveyors or architects (ACEI, SCSI, RIAI respectively) made similar representations, on behalf of their members, to the Minister or Department? If not it looks like their members are facing an uphill battle with clients, trying to agree a sustainable fee for the new certifier roles, with Ministerial public statements on costs uncorrected.

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Complaint to Minister:

Dear Minister Hogan

In numerous occasions recently you have quoted fees for the new Design and Assigned Certifier roles under Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) at between €1000 to €3000 maximum per house. This fee range was noted in a regulatory impact assessment undertaken for SI.9 (previously SI.80 ) in 2012. This fee range is below-cost and inhibits free market forces, distorting the market in the process. You have spoken on the airwaves, on the major morning news programme on the principal broadcaster,  about the fee which a house owner could expect to  pay for an architect (or competent person) to act as Design Certifier and Assigned Certifier under the new regulations. Many of my clients, whether actual or potential, listen to this programme. The matter is of such personal importance to those people, that they will remember the advice of their Minister.

You have said that my clients can expect to pay “between €1000 and €3000” for these services. This has now made it impossible for me to say to my client that the fee should be a multiple of these figures, as my clients question my professional honesty. These services are necessary on all new dwellings and on all extensions to dwellings exceeding 40 square metres (about 430 square feet) starting after last Saturday. This is a major portion of my business and of my family’s livelihood.

This inappropriate intervention by a Government Minister gives me a choice to:-

1. Withdraw from the market, with the consequent loss of my livelihood;

2. Quote a fee which is a multiple of what the Minister has said, causing my clients to doubt my integrity;

3. Undertake the work at a fee equal to, say, the highest figure which you has said, but which is then only 20% of what I need to charge to break even for an annual personal income of €60,000.

Regards

(A concerned professional)

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