What are the implications of opting in or out of the Building Control certification process for those building a new house or extension?
The most recent amendment to the Building Control Regulations 1997 to 2015 provides owners of new single dwellings, on a single development unit, and domestic extensions with an alternative process to the Statutory Certification route. The key difference involves the facility to opt out of the requirement to obtain Statutory Certificates reliant on the services of a registered construction professional.
Here's a summary of the recent changes to S.I.9:
S.I.365 of 2015 amending S.I.9 of 2014 came into force on the 1st September 2015. The principle changes and clarifications are:
People engaged in building a single house or an extension to a house of more than 40 square metres in area may opt out of the full S.I.9 process by submitting a "Declaration of Intention to Opt Out of Statutory Certification". In those circumstances the following Statutory Documents are no longer required
- a Preliminary Inspection Plan prepared by the Assigned Certifier
- a Certificate of Compliance (Design)
- a Notice of Assignment of Person to Inspect and Certify Works (Assigned Certifier)
- a Certificate of Compliance (Undertaking by Assigned Certifier)
- a Certificate of Compliance (Undertaking by Builder)
- a Certificate of Compliance on Completion and accompanying documents.
The 40 square metre issue has been clarified to mean any one extension of 40 square metres (i.e. not cumulative).
Self-builders may act as the 'Builder' under both systems though the reference to competence is still present in the Code of Practice.
What hasn't changed?
- A Commencement Notice still must be submitted to the Local Authority.
- The Commencement Notice is to be accompanied by Compliance Documentation (plans, calculations, specifications, etc.) and to include (i) general arrangement drawings, (ii) a schedule of compliance documents as currently designed or to be prepared at a later date, (iii) online assessment on the BCMS.
- Notice of Assignment of Builder.
- Requirement to design and build in compliance with the Building Regulations.
Some Additional Thoughts to Consider:
A significant number of 'opt-out' properties will end up being sold at some point and future buyers will not have the level of consumer protection provided by the certification process. Owners undertaking a project should consider the implications for the sale of their property of not having the construction certified under S.I.9 provisions.
Beyond the immediate building costs and costs associated with Certification, the decision to opt out of the statutory certification process may have further consequences down the line in relation to the capacity to insure, mortgage or sell the dwelling concerned. In the DECLG guide to the Building Control System it says: “...In addition, when it comes to selling your property, you may have difficulties if you cannot satisfy the purchaser's solicitor that the requirements of the Regulations have been met.” The Information Note prepared by the Ministers Department also advise that “Homeowners should weigh up carefully the implications of a decision to opt out of the statutory certification process.” It further advises that “It is worth bearing in mind that reasonable investment in the design, inspection and certification of works will pay dividends in terms of delivering a quality compliant building.”
Homeowners should be aware of the Sample Preliminary Inspection Plan which is published on the Department’s website that outlines the typical hourly service required from construction professionals. Fees charged by professionals may vary.
Homeowners should appraise themselves of any potential cost or other implications that may arise as a result of choosing to opt out of the statutory certification process. Prior to deciding on whether or not to avail of the opt out option, it is recommended that a homeowner should consult with their solicitor.
Meanwhile, the RIAI (Institute of Architects) has advised member architects as follows: Members are cautioned against advising Clients to opt out until such time as an alternative is in place. Liability for such advice may arise if conveyance or value related problems surface at a later stage.