On 1 March 2014, the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (“the Regulations”) came into force in the Republic of Ireland. The intention of the Regulations is to implement the lessons which have been learnt by the Construction Industry, following a poorly regulated housing boom, by increasing the levels of accountability for professionals signing off on new buildings. The timing is aimed at ensuring the past problems can be avoided, now that the industry finds itself in a position where it is returning to growth.
The Building Control Amendment Regulations require:
1 Mandatory Certification;
2 Lodgement of Plans;
3 Mandatory Inspection; and
4 Validation by Building Control Authorities.
Prior to the introduction of the Regulations, the industry operated a system of “self-certification”. This served only to ensure that there was substantial compliance with the Building Regulations in place, as opposed to certifying that all building standards were fully adhered to. This failing has been addressed by introducing a new system whereby there is to be a mandatory requirement for certification of buildings by “Assigned Certifiers”. An Assigned Certifier must be an Architect, Surveyor or Engineer registered with the appropriate professional bodies. He, in conjunction with the builder, will certify that a finished building complies with the requirements of the Regulations. This Certificate of Compliance must then be submitted to the relevant Local Authority upon completion of the building project. Any changes to the initial design (submitted in Phase 2, Lodgement of Plans) which may have occurred over the course of the works must also be submitted with drawings, specifications and particulars which are relevant to those changes. The new Regulations will apply to:
1 Buildings and Works that require a Fire Safety Certificate;
2 New Dwellings – Housing and Apartments; and
3 Extensions with a floor area greater than 40m2.
Implications of the Regulations
Houses which must conform to the Regulations will provide an assurance, not only to the existing owner, but to any future party which may be interested in purchasing the property that any work, including new work and restoration, is in full compliance with the Regulations. The Final Certificate on completion of a dwelling will be accessible to anyone who expresses an interest. The Regulations will also reduce the activity of “cowboy builders” by providing that registered professional persons must be in place from project initiation to project completion. As a consequence, this also has a knock on effect of reducing activity in the Black Market Economy, which is estimated to cost the Irish Construction Industry billions of euros every year both directly and indirectly.
Inevitably, there are associated costs which will arise from the enforcement of the Regulations. The Assigned Certifier will bear the cost of higher insurance premiums due to the increased liability that they will be exposing themselves to in taking responsibility for the project in its entirety. Doubts remain as to whether or not this liability exceeds the professional indemnity cover which is currently available to builders and construction professionals. The cost to the owner/developer for assigning a competent person to fulfil the role of Assigned Certifier is expected to cost between €1,000 and €3,000 per housing unit, which will ultimately be added on to the price of the dwelling and therefore be borne by the consumer.
The new Regulations give a clear and auditable trail of responsibility for buildings. If it transpires that a person purchases a defective property under this new system, where in the past they may have had no redress, now, litigation may mean a substantial recovery. This will be a boon to the legal industry. Latent defects insurance, similar to that being offered in the UK, offers a single point of reference for remedying defects thus eradicating the need for unnecessary costs expended in court proceedings. This is something that should be considered by the relevant authorities.
The Irish Construction Industry is returning to growth. This is a fact. The interim period since the downturn has given the industry professionals an opportunity to review and attempt to remedy past failings such as breaches in fire regulations, the pyrite issue, poorly considered planning and workmanship and most importantly, a lack of accountability and certification. We can point to the envisaged introduction of the Construction Contracts Act, the review of the Public Works Contracts and the Regulations as evidence of this. The Regulations will ensure safe and well constructed homes in Ireland are being provided for future generations. But they will mean increased costs to purchase the homes and insure the professionals.