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Iaosb letter to Minister Hogan following his replies in the Seanad. 11/4/14

Dear Minister Hogan,


I have just finished listening to your Seanad speech from April 10th on Building Control (amendment) Regulation (S.I.9 of 2014) and SI.105. I am astonished that you mention that self-builders, and our organisation, have been kept informed and participated in the formation of the regulation.


We were not part of any stakeholder group- please clarify who was part of this group and who suggests they speak on behalf of self-builders or the Irish Association of Self Builder's of Ireland. As you are well aware the last consumer input into SI.9 (SI.80) occurred in May 2012 when, after a particular meeting which was very critical of SI.9 (SI80), the Building Regulation Advisory Body (BRAB) was disbanded. Following this in mid 2012 you formed a special key stakeholder group comprised of representatives form the construction industry federation (CIF), surveyors, engineers and architects representative organisations (SCSI, ACEI and RIAI) along with members of your office and Department only. No consumer representatives had input into the regulation up to and until implementation on 1st March.


The 504 submissions frequently referred to, along with the very brief regulatory impact assessment undertaken in 2012 (none in 2013), appear to have been pretty much ignored. One look at the pyrite panel recommendations, submissions by Priory Hall residents and National Consumer Agency: calls for an end to self-certification and the introduction for a proper independent local authority system of 100% inspections, confirm little or no heed taken by you of consumer concerns in the formation SI.9.


We, self-builders of Ireland, did not know anything about the new building regulation until last October. You are fully aware that all consumer groups were excluded from any key stakeholder meetings since mid 2012. We have not held any meetings with you or any of your representatives, despite numerous requests clarifications regarding the status of self-builders to your office. Details of all correspondence to and from your office is on our website.


Any statement to the contrary in the Seanad, is quite simply, misinformation.


We did not have any response from the DECLG until 25th of February and that was after we started our nationwide campaign to petition TD's. It is no coincidence that our requests for information were ignored until grassroots politicians started to get phone calls from very angry self-builders all across the country. We are well aware of the practicalities of our democratic process, and only the loudest will get answers. Our political campaign will intensify coming into local elections. We are noting to our members what TD's have responded to our concerns and who has not. The current government, both coalition partners, have not responded to our concerns.


The only responses we have had to our letters to your Department have been three very confusing and contradictory emails from Martin Vaughan, with the usual stock answers that are provided to these questions. Due to the contradictory and conflicting advice produced by the Department and your office we have requested definitive legal opinion from the Attorney General on the status of self-builders.


Anecdotally we have had a huge amount of correspondence from self-builders who are confused at the current situation, and anxious in advance of the formal cessation of self-building in March 2015 when CIRI, the construction industry federation's privately owned and operated register of contractors becomes mandatory. As you are aware we have made a complaint to the European ombudsman on this aspect of the regulation. This also is on our website.


The extraordinary reduction in commencement notices noted by you for March last month confirms the information we are receiving from self-builders all over the country. Out of the 120 commencement notices you noted as lodged for March, 100 qualified under SI.9. We believe out of these 20 were the 7 day type, non residential, and out of the remainder approximately 70 were qualifying residential projects. 70 houses or large extensions for the entire country. Last year 320 residential commencement notices were lodged in March. According to the better building conference in dublin this week all 20 commencement notices in Cork had problems associated with them. Only 70 Commencement notices in March is a massive 80% reduction and if this trend continues well over 2,000 less individual houses will be not be built in the 12 month run-up to the mandatory CIF register. This is higher than our estimated number of 1,800 self-builds abandoned made at the start of the year, due to the massive costs of SI.9 on self-builds.


Your continued insistence of a €1000 to €3000, an average cost of €2000 for SI9 for professional fees is simply ridiculous. The RIAI have confirmed the time required to complete adequately the duties of certifier under the new regulation at between 156 and 200 hours. Your average hourly rate then suggested is a little over €11, including 23% vat. Pretty ambitious for highly qualified competent persons with overheads, office costs, insurance costs, 23% vat and travel costs. If only the same strict cost guidelines were followed for the consultants involved in setting up Irish Water. Our members have been quoted up to, and over €15,000 for professional fees for all this red tape. Red tape, which you yourself have confirmed, does not increase any technical performance of our houses. The technical performance requirements are the same under SI.9 as they were under the previous regulations. Extraordinary.


Why did you give architects, engineers and surveyors a monopoly on certifying and getting money for every new house and every house extension over 400 square feet? This is adding thousands to the cost of a self-build project. What trouble was there ever with house extensions that you had to do that?


I like the point raised by one of the senators that there are only two assign certifiers in his county and the other one shouting that you are just trying to make the chosen few richer. Meanwhile hundreds of practically qualified non-registered architects have seen their careers slip away, disadvantaged by a small elite of registered professionals endorsed by your government.


Your reluctance to acknowledge that there will not be extraordinary costs to employ registered contractors to manage self-builds is equally ridiculous. Between preliminary costs, builder's attendance, main contractor's profit the extra-over for a typical residential project is in the region of over 12% of the cost of the build- for a €180,000 house this would be over €22,000. Between the extra for additional professional certifier roles and a main contractor's fees and profit we are at €40,000 and over. To continue to state the contrary is deliberately misinforming the Seanad and the public on the matter. Your continued insistence on a cost of between €1000 and €3000 has been represented to us, we feel correctly, by some professionals as distorting the market and promotion of below cost selling of professional services.


You are well aware of recent law society advice issued to professionals recommending them not to certify self-builds. To suggest self-building is still possible in advance of March 2015 is not correct, when legal advice to the contrary has been furnished to all three representative professional certifier bodies. In a recent Dail statement on 8th April you stated "While no legislative proposals for the statutory register have been devised as yet, it is not intended that any such proposals would confine or restrict either self- build or one-off housing." This is in the context of the impending introduction of the private CIF register on a statutory (mandatory) footing in March 2015. How a mandatory register can be proposed, while allowing self-building to continue, is simply a fiction and a gross misrepresentation to fellow elected representatives in the Seanad.


You have stated your department is in discussion with us and we have not risen any objections. This is a grave misrepresentation of our organisation and the interests of all self-builders in the Seanad. We would support any independent inquiry into these statements.


Shane McCloud

Irish Association of Self Builders

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