Minimum Wage BER Certification: a race to the bottom?

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28 July 2016

The SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) encourages home-owners to shop around when they need a BER (Building Energy Rating) Certificate. “A BER certificate is required if you are advertising a home for sale or rent, before a new home is occupied for the first time or applying for a home improvement grant.   It shows how energy efficient your home is and checks energy use for space heating, water heating, ventilation and lighting. Your home is rated between A and G, with A-rated homes being the most energy efficient.  There are exemptions for certain homes, such as protected structures and certain temporary buildings” (from Consumerhelp.ie).

A Consumer Agency “Mystery Shopper” Survey says that average BER Certificate for a 3 bed semi-detached house costs €165.  BER Certificates ranged from €99 in Cork to €300 in Donegal (See survey here:).  The SEAI says that “210 quotes were received, representing approximately 25% of the total number of domestic (BER) assessors registered with the SEAI, 107 quotes in relation to a three bedroom semi-detached house and 103 quotes for a two bedroom apartment”.  This survey was carried out in 2013. A quick internet search now shows that “€99 specials” for BER Certs and Reports are widely available.

In practice, this means fully calculating a BER rating and providing an Advisory Report for €165 (see sample here).   That equates to less than 5 hours work at the national minimum wage. More realistically  it equates to 2 hours work including full site survey & travel for a professional on a €50k salary (incl VAT, overheads and travel costs). Is it possible to do the job properly?

Many are concerned that Building Control Assigned Certifier fees are following the same trend- A race to the bottom means that nobody can have faith in the system because the market rate isn’t enough to do the job properly.

In Ireland, lack of detailed Certifier inspection stages and poorly-defined roles under BCAR SI.9  has given rise to a wide range of services and charges and undercutting under the new system, and we are rapidly seeing similar issues to those of BER Certification.  With an ambitious new action plan for large scale housing delivery issued by Minister Coveney, an acknowledged legacy of poor quality housing and free-for-all on price cutting in private building inspections one wonders if any of the stakeholders have brought this to the attention of the new Minister?

A list of BER Assessors is available from the SEAI Here 

Other posts of interest:

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

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

RIAI ALERT: Inspection Fees for House Extensions

FACTCHECK 4 | Dáil + Construction Costs

Department of Environment regulatory failure | PYRITE 10 years on

Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness Report recommends Building Control Changes

FACTCHECK 4 | Dáil + Construction Costs

3 thoughts on “Minimum Wage BER Certification: a race to the bottom?

  1. Kieran

    thats an all inclusive quote. so €165 – €25 (seai publication fee at time of survey) = €140 – 23% VAT if registered for same. therefore fee earned = €113.82

    Reply
  2. Jenny Power

    In reality, the amount of work required for carrying out a proper BER certification would cost in the region of 500 euro plus VAT, if it was to be accurate and meaningful. There only way one could charge less would be if one was to do an estate of identical houses or apartments. And even then, calculation for each wall orientation and/or floor areas for example would need to be checked. I am always bemused at how the lowest price is pushed in the BER market. Low price does not equal good service

    Reply
  3. Michael O'Neill

    Reply to – Minimum Wage BER Certification – a race to the bottom

    http://www.bregsforum.com/2016/07/28/self-certification-a-race-to-the-bottom/

    I endorse the previous two comments. The price quoted above is less than the price we used to charge out IN THE NINETIES for an Opinion of Compliance on planning where we were involved in the project from the start and had done all the planning applications/ appeals/ oral hearings etc. and had taken the project to site.

    In other words, we knew the project backwards and all the documentation was to hand on our files and you were literally paying for the time to inspect and deal with any major issues, averaged over the scheme. If everyone had done their jobs properly beforehand, this price turned a profit for the company.

    With BER Assessors – as I understand the practice – none of this applies.

    BER Assessors are usually called in at the last minute to ‘issue a Cert’

    The houses may be complex or one off and in small estates a high proportion of houses may have different orientations even where they are the same house type. Where much of a planning review centers on a visual comparison of the built work with the permission – i.e. WHAT you can build – the inspection required to properly assess a dwelling requires either opening up, resting on drawings and specifications or even making assumptions about the construction, its quality or the lack of it.

    In other words, where there is no involvement during site work, particularly at foundation, corner, cavity, eaves, roof and ope installations, you are not in a position to be absolutely certain of your assessment.

    The only way to approach this after the fact is by measuring heat loss and that is difficult enough through floors. You can use an infra-red camera for everything above ground, but threshold details are often at grade or obscured by steps, while foundations cannot be investigated except by opening up.

    Even going on the limited appraisal described above, where defects are discovered, and time is put into suggesting remedies and attending again, I would say 1,000 would be a minimum, especially if your recommendations became material to the compliance or otherwise of the building under review.

    These are some of the reasons I avoid doing BER Certs and wish all the best to those brave enough to issue them.

    Reply

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