23 February 2017
BRegs Blog ‘FACTCHECK’ Team have looked at some statements made in the Irish Times article “Buying a new home? Here are 10 questions to ask the builder” 4th November 2016, as follows [Bregs Blog Notes in Bold]:
“The one thing all buyers should be reasonably confident about is the quality of their new home, on foot of building regulations brought in since March 2014, in response to scandals such as Priory Hall”.
Bregs Blog: Priory Hall, an apartment development in North Dublin, was evacuated on foot of a court order in 2011. The fire risks were so serious that residents were given hours to pack up and leave while fire engines stood outside. It was a catastrophic failure in regulation, built under a regime of unregistered builders, inadequate insurance, a lack of local authority checks and informal sign-off. The 2014 regulations reinforced this system of sign-off, putting ‘self certification’ on a statutory basis without dealing with the many root causes in the house building industry. There is no reason to believe that buyers can be any more confident of quality and safety under the new system. There are no new legal rights for buyers and there are still no independent inspections of construction sites (see post here),
A copy of an “assigned certificate” must be included in the legal documents as part of the closing of a sale. That Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR) certificate is a guarantee that the house you’re buying complies with all building regulations.
Bregs Blog: There is no legal requirement to include a Completion Certificate in the sales documents, although a building cannot be legally occupied without one and banks require one for a mortgage. A buyer, or their bank, has no way of knowing if an Assigned Certifier has done careful inspections or if, in fact, the developer has cut corners and had certificates signed by his own staff (see posts here and here).
You might think that this Completion Certificate is a guarantee, but it comes with few consumer protections and no new rights for you as a buyer. If there’s a defect in the house or apartment you will have to go to Court to look for redress; this could take many years and the outcome is not guaranteed. The Priory Hall complex was eventually repaired at a cost of €30m to the tax payer, because the owners had no recourse in law (see post here).
“I estimate that a single house would have to have had 30 to 35 inspections across all trade and professions – architects, mechanical and electrical engineers, plumbers, etc – by the time it’s built,” says O’Mahony. The architect alone would have to do six to eight inspections. All of these people must log and date their inspections and sign a certificate.
Bregs Blog: The RIAI (architects body) advise extensive and detailed inspections for all construction (see here and here). The catch is that if these ’30 to 35 inspections’ are done, they will generally be done by the same 30 to 35 trades who carried out the work; and often these workers will have to sign certificates for their own work in order to get paid.
At the end, an “assigned certifier” – it can be an architect, engineer or a surveyor – must sign a document guaranteeing that the property is built in accordance with building regulations and lodge it with their local authority; no one can move into their house until it’s lodged. There’s a trail of responsibilty.”
Bregs Blog: The Assigned Certifier will leave a trail trail of responsibility but it is not correct to call this a guarantee because it is not. However, you may find, like Hansel and Gretal, that this is nothing but a trail of breadcrumbs leading you further down a path of false promises and not to a safely built home. You can still buy a non-compliant home…and it’s all perfectly legal
Other posts of interest:
Other FACTCHECK Posts: