Self Builders and Building Control (Amendment) Regulation S.I.9 of 2014- One year on - 10th March 2015
On 1st of March 2014 BC(A)R S.I.9 came to effect and has caused some major problems for Self Builders who were planning to start their project after that date. We were told by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government that this new Regulation would be the solution to stop shoddy building practices that we have experienced in Ireland for the past few years. At the time, Minister Phil Hogan kept mentioning in the media the problems with Priory Hall and Pyrite’s as the reason to change the Regulations even though this had nothing to do with Self builders.
We at Irish Association of Self Builders always welcome any idea that would help us protect the biggest investment that we would ever make in our lives which is our family homes. Self builders have been building their homes in Ireland the traditional way for the past decades. So what effect would this new Regulation have on their their projects?
Under the rules of S.I 9 home owners will have to employ a certified professional (Architect, Engineer, Building Surveyor) to design the house for them. There is also a need for an Assign Certifier who has to sign off each stage of the build confirming that it has been done according to the Building Regulations. Building Contractors have to be registered on a list called CIRI which is being run by the privately owned Construction Industry Federation.
So it all sounds good, a house designed by the professionals and built by Contractors who are vetted by C.I.F on behalf of the government who can only be accepted if they can prove that they are not doggy builders and have paid their taxes for the past three years. But what about all the Contractors who have just started their business or were employed in the industry and want to act as a sole trader? Are we telling all these people who are well capable of doing the jobs that we can not use you on our project because CIRI has not accepted you? Not a very good way of encouraging our young people to stay in Ireland and start their own businesses.
After having the opportunity to look further into the legality and the requirements of S.I.9 we came across a few other points of concern which we raised with DECLG and Minister Hogan. The problems were as follows:
1) Under BC(A)R S.I.9 of 2014 there are a number of certifications that have to be signed by the Home Owner, Design Certifier, Assign Certifier and the Building Contractor before, during and on completion of the project. The main legal problem comes in the certificate “Undertaking by the Builder” which under article 9 the owner of the project must serve on the building control authority when it commences on site. This legal document needs “to be signed by a Principal or Director of a building company only” which according to the law of the land makes it illegal for a Self builder to do so if they are not a Principal or Director of a Building Company. There are no sections on these certificates that would allow a Self Builder to sign as the builder and Project Manager. We raised this issue with the Minister and his Department and he responded to us to the effect that it was never his intention that the regulations would hinder or prevent “self-builders” from continuing to manage our own projects . He assured the Association that self-builders can indeed legitimately sign the undertakings and “Certificate of Completion” which the regulations require. DECLG then sent a document confirming that a Self builder can nominate themselves and sign as the builder. (Doc 1) This however still does not make it legally acceptable.
2) The other restriction in SI.9 that continues to impact self-builders most is the restriction to use “competent” builders, which only seem to be members of the new privately owned CIF register CIRI. The Department of the Environment has in effect, given CIF a monopoly on all residential building in the state as a result. There is still confusion on which contractors actually do have to register on CIRI which as of todays date only has 546 on their list. What has happened to the remaining thousand’s who have not registered yet? So if currently self builders have to choose a Contractor who is on this list, we are left with only a handful in each category. In some counties the number of listed Contractor’s are a total of “0”. Self builders need clarification on which contractors have to be registered in CIRI for their project.
3) The problem with Certifiers? Under the rules of BC(A)R S.I 9, self-builders will have to employ a certified professional (Architect, Engineer, Building Surveyor) to design the house for them and then an Assigned Certifier to sign off each section of the build to confirm that it has been built according to the Regulations. Perfect, a supervised build under the eyes of the professionals. However, these Certifiers are almost non-existent. There are only a handful throughout the country who are prepared to take on these roles. From the feedback that we have been receiving, as soon as the so called Design and Assigned Certifiers hear the word “Self-Build” the conversation ends as none of them are prepared to endanger their business by signing off the certifications in case something goes wrong.
So a year on, where are we now? During the past 12 months Irish Association of Self Builders has sent numerous letters to the Minister and DECLG, T.D’s, Attorney General, European Commission, Law Society, RIAI, SCSI and ACEI and up to now no satisfactory response from any of them .
In the past year we have on daily basis been contacted by Self builders who are worried that they can no longer participate in their own project or that they can no longer afford the extra costs that have been put upon them by this new Regulation. Minister Hogan tried to assure us that the cost would not be greater than €1000 to €3000 extra but it has been proven how wrong he was in his calculations. We are hearing of additional SI.9 costs in excess of €40,000 extra to build a conventional family home: the cost of additional professional fees and the additional cost to use a CIRI registered main contractor.
According to a recent survey done by Iaosb, we found out that 1/3 of all self-builds in the past year have either been postponed or abandoned due to the huge costs and unintended consequences of S.I.9. This results in between 800 to 1,000 homes not being built.
Minister Alan Kelly in the past few weeks has finally acknowledged that there is a problem as far as this Regulation and one off houses being done by Self builders and we were informed that a review is under way.
As it stands, there are a lot of talking and no actions. We are still waiting for BC(A)R S.I.9 to be either revoked or revised for Self builders. Minister Kelly, THE TIME IS NOW.
Shane McCloud Irish Association of Self Builder www.iaosb.com