UK Report | Competition in Building Control in a “race to the bottom”

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14 July 2016

The fourth Inquiry in the UK by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment (APPGEBE) “More homes, fewer complaints” report was launched on 13 July 2016.  It examined the quality and workmanship of new build housing in England.

Committee members were…“concerned that competition in building control might be fuelling a race to the bottom… It is therefore recommending there should be a defined minimum number of inspections that local authority building control and approved inspectors in the private sector should not fall below”.

The report also proposes an ombudsman to deal with complaints from buyers of new houses and apartments. This is in response to widespread criticism of shoddy construction, poor standards and ineffective consumer protections in developer-built housing.  A full copy of the CIC report can be found here: Construction Industry Council – Reports

PDF download here: More homes, fewer complaints

Extract from a “Construction Index” article:

“Recommendations include:

  • Department for Communities & Local Government should initiate steps to set up a New Homes Ombudsman. The role would include mediating disputes between consumers and their builders or warranty providers to offer a quick resolution procedure paid for by a housebuilders’ levy.
  • Housebuilding sales contracts should be standardised. This would remove much of the uncertainty that presently arises from the bespoke nature of each builder’s sales contract, which can deter so many from pursuing claims
  • Buyers should have the right to inspect properties before completion. Such a provision would discourage builders from serving notices to complete prematurely, or concealing major defects until after they have received the full purchase price, and would also encourage better quality control and site management pre-completion
  • Builders should be required to provide buyers with a comprehensive information pack – the aim being to improve transparency of the design, building and inspection process. The pack should contain information including, designs and plans, specifications and details about both warranty and building control inspections, when carried out and by whom.
  • DCLG should commission a review of warranties. At present warranty providers offer varying levels of cover and consumer protection.
  • A minimum standard should be set for compliance inspections. The committee said that it was “concerned that competition in building control might be fuelling a race to the bottom”. It is therefore recommending there should be a defined minimum number of inspections that local authority building control and approved inspectors in the private sector should not fall below.”

More information about the group, the committee and the inquiry can be found here.

The UK system of building control is seen as an ‘exemplar” model ranked very highly by the World Bank. In England the system is operated by a mixture of Local Authority Building Inspectors and Approved Inspectors, licensed private inspectors.  Northern Ireland has a 100% Local Authority system with no private inspectors and is entirely self-funded. UK private Approved Inspectors are subject to very similar commercial pressures as registered professional Certifiers in the Irish ‘self-certification’ BCAR model, and although licensed by Local Authorities are employees of developers.

Similarly in Ireland lack of detailed inspection stages and poorly-defined roles has given rise to a wide range of services and charges under the new system. Many involved in the industry here are seeing a “race to the bottom’ with low cost/ poor service models being observed particularly in the residential multi-unit sector.

Articles related to report:

MPs urge creation of New Homes Ombudsman | The Planner

MPs call for new homes ombudsman | The Construction Index

MPs call for New Homes Ombudsman to help drive up housebuilding quality and customer service | netMAGmedia Ltd

Other posts of interest:

UK and Ireland: Take a quick drive to Newry with BReg Blog…

Everything you wanted to know about “Approved Inspectors”

CIC | ‘Construction Industry Council’ or ‘Confusion in Costs’?

World Bank Report 2015 | UK v Ireland the real cost of “Dealing with construction permits”

Is the UK ‘approved inspector’ model a more transparent system, with better outcomes? | The Engineers Journal

SI 365 of 2015: A good start | Collins + O’Cofaigh

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