New consumer protections for…spark plugs, not houses!


The following opinion piece was submitted by a registered architect on 25th August 2014. Breg blog notes shown in [ ].

New consumer protections for…spark plugs, not houses!

Interesting to see new proposals for enhancing consumer rights for purchase of goods (see pdf here)- great to have if you purchase faulty spark plugs for your car.

Unfortunately we do not have similar for purchasing a new house.

The new building regulations sought to clean up the construction industry and ensure pyrite and developments like Priory Hall would not re-occur. Cowboy builders were to be consigned to the history books. We know how successful this has been already for pyrite- high-profile demolitions nationwide this year due to pyite in blockwork. We still await a register of contractors- what we have is a private voluntary register run by the Construction Industry Federation.

Apparent loopholes suggest that developers may well be capable of adapting quite quickly to the new self-certification regime, employing in-house certifiers to provide “guarantees’ required under the new regulations [see link at end of post].

As recently as 12th of this August the RIAI* consensus view is that SI.9 is deficient and not in the interests of the consumer. The RIAI have made representations to the Minister and the Department as to the shortcomings of the new regulations.

The Law Society have confirmed that they were not consulted in advance of implementation of the new regulations, so worryingly there may be conveyancing issues associated with SI.9 that we are not aware of yet, issues that may become apparent when projects completed under SI.9 start being sold on.

The lack of enhanced consumer protections under the new regulations has been well documented by commentators [quote from Deirdre Ní Fhloinn:

“There are no new legal rights or remedies for consumers created by BCAR 2014. Rather, the benefits to consumers are intended to result from improvements in the building process, such as the requirement for an assigned certifier to devise and implement an inspection plan.“]

The one sector tasked with implementation, regulation, oversight and enforcement of the new regulations and materials policing is the Building Control Sections of Local Authorities, who remain understaffed and resourced. We await a finalised code of practice for building control. Worryingly the draft version [see link below] indicates that the Department is seeking to distance BCO’s further from their market policing of materials. The draft document suggests they police “Marketing of Construction Products in line with EU (Construction Product) Regulations’ only (see Framework for Building Control Authorities – Version 1: July 2014; page 1)**.

Remarkably even with 4 no inspections being recommended per project the Department continues to set an unrealistic target of 15% Local Authority building control inspections. There are less than 70 building control inspectors nationwide who are required to police a €10bn construction industry.

Appropriately trained professionals such as architectural technologists find themselves excluded from new roles under the regulations with careers seriously impacted upon.

So we have a self-certification system (the same as the past 20 years), under-resourced Building Control Authorities and a voluntary private register of contractors- remarkably this is not mandatory. Our “new” self-certification system continues with contractors still unregulated.

The unforseen consequence of the new regulations is a huge increase in costs for consumers with little or no added benefit. Consumer groups such as self-builders find themselves simply priced out of the market, unable to manage and build their own house.

*Breg Blog notes:

*the representative body for architects (RIAI)

**we believe the Framework for Building Control Authorities – Version 1: July 2014 is a draft document only and are not in a position to comment on the finalised version which is due to be circulated in September 2014.

Other posts mentioned in this opinion piece:

How developers are “adapting” to the new Building Control regulations 

Legal perspective: consumer benefit? BC(A)R SI.9 

Framework for Building Control Authorities – Version 1: July 2014

SI.9 Is Defective | RIAI EGM Consensus 

Continuing Collapse in Commencement Notices: Building Register – 5th August 2014

SI.9 costs for a typical house 

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