Opt-out option could be scrapped, says Junior Minister

ROI Junior Minister for Housing Damien English favours scrapping the legislation that allows self-builders to ‘opt out’ of appointing an Assigned Certifier to their project.

During a briefing given to reporters on the 25th September 2019 about the new building regulations coming into force in November, Minister English said “there is a recommendation in [the report into defective concrete blocks] that we will reinstate the certification process for one-off houses.” He added: “We haven’t made a final decision but it’s something that I personally would agree with and so would my Department.” The legislation underpinning the ‘opt-out’ clause is called SI365 (2015). Minister English said his Department was now “focusing on” the defective concrete block report’s recommendation to scrap SI365 . SI365 allows self-builders to build and certify their homes in the same way they used to before the latest amendment to the building control act, known as SI9 (2014), which requires that building projects be certified by a registered architect, engineer or building surveyor, known as ‘Assigned Certifiers’. These ‘Assigned Certifiers’ are paid by the homeowners/clients to gather and upload on the Building Control Management System all documents that certify the construction of the building complies with the building regulations. The local authorities do have building control inspectors, but in practice very few of them inspect self-builds. Building control inspectors often double up as fire officers and tend to inspect commercial buildings and other construction sites that require a fire certificate. SI365 was brought in partly because of the evidence that some assigned certifiers were charging high rates for providing this service, in light of the associated liability issues. Minister English told reporters on Wednesday he’s not convinced that the assigned certifier fees were as high as claimed. Other TDs however believe a better option would be to put building control back in the hands of local authorities, instead of passing this responsibility into the hands of the private sector.
Early in 2018 the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government published their Report on Building Standards, Building Controls & Consumer Protection called Safe as Houses? This report outlines measures to introduce a Building Control Authority and making latent defects insurance mandatory for all builders.
This would revert the building control function of inspecting all building sites to ensure compliance with the building regulations, back to the local authorities.

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Written by Astrid Madsen

Astrid Madsen is the editor of the SelfBuild magazine. Email astrid.madsen@selfbuild.ie

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