The role of Building Control is often assumed to cover consumer protection, especially on small domestic projects, where the Building Inspector is often the only professional involved in the project.
In fact Building Control do not offer consumer protection, and are there only to ensure certain minimum statutory rules are adhered to. Its easiest to think of Building Control in terms of the buying a car – Building Control would be the equivalent of an MOT test, rather than a 7 year manufacturer’s warranty. Therefore, you could rightly expect the brakes, seat belts and emissions to be correct, but would have no recourse if the Radio, Sat Nav or paintwork were faulty.
The role of the various parties has been set out in the Future of Building Control report published by the Government
The report states that the building control service will:
- provide a checking service to help achieve compliance with building standards
- support and advise customers on how to end up with the result they want, but will not be a substitute for professional design and construction advice
- help with aspects of quality (workmanship and materials) where these affect compliance with building standards, but not where they do not affect compliance
- ensure that all building standards which are set in the interests of the wider public good have been complied with at completion.
However the building control service will not:
- be responsible for compliance – that is the duty of the person carrying out the work. If work is found not to comply with building standards the person responsible could be prosecuted and the owner of the building may be required to put the work right
- manage every stage of the construction process on-site – that is a matter for the contracts and arrangements between the client and builder
- address issues such as the finish and aesthetics of the final project where these are not relevant to compliance with building standards – these are a matter for designers, developers, builders and, to some extent, new home warranty providers
- deal with contractual problems between client and builder – this is a matter of contract law.
Roles and responsibilities of those involved in the building control system:
Building owners (householder, landowner, property owner) – are ultimately responsible for compliance of any building work undertaken, and should understand the aims of the building control system (to meet the needs of current and future users of the building, not just their own expectations).
Construction industry (architects, engineers, designers, surveyors, builders, construction companies, developers, etc) – design and build to meet the required standard, and have a clear understanding of the building control system and its role (eg to notify the building control service at agreed stages).
Approved inspectors – provide an independent third-party check on compliance with Building Regulations through plans checking and inspections; carry out informal enforcement, advise customers at design stage and on-site, collect and act on performance management information. Authorised by the Construction Industry Council on behalf of the Secretary of State. Approved Inspectors can also often offer other services beyond the building control system itself, (such as carrying out fire risk assessments and health and safety services), but may not undertake design or have a financial interest in the project.
When you use an approved inspector, they will take on responsibility for plan checking and inspection of your building work. The procedure requires you and the approved inspector jointly to notify your local authority of your intended building work on what is called an initial notice. Subject to any arrangements you have agreed with your approved inspector, you may start work as soon as the initial notice is accepted by your local authority. Work cannot start for a period of 5 days to enable the local authority time to process the Initial Notice.
Once this notice has been accepted by your local authority the responsibility for plan checking and site inspection will be formally placed on the approved inspector. The approved inspector will tell you what plans and information they need in order to check that the proposed work will comply with the Building Regulations. If you ask for one, the approved inspector will issue a plans certificate which will confirm that the plans of your proposed building work show compliance with the Building Regulations. When the work is complete the approved inspector must issue a final certificate to the local authority to say that the work referred to in the initial notice is complete, and that the inspector has carried out their inspection responsibilities.
If the approved inspector is not satisfied with work in progress on site, and you cannot resolve the disagreement by discussion, the inspector will have to cancel the initial notice by a notice to the local authority. This will terminate the inspectors building control responsibility for your project. In these circumstances the Building Control Service function is likely to have to return to your local authority
Important Hints & Tips
- Get at least three written, itemised quotes for your building work. Prices can vary enormously, but don’t automatically go for the cheapest quote and ensure your quotes are “like for like” i.e. does one quote allow for all fixtures and fittings to a new bathroom but another builds in a nominal sum of £1,000 with you paying the extra.
- Use a reputable builder – Check out sites such as Checkatrade, Trust mark or similar or use one who is recommended to you and whose work you can go and look at and whose customers would use again.
- Have your plans properly drawn up by an experienced architect and ensure that they are submitted to us as early as possible so they can be checked and any problems resolved. That way when a builder is pricing they have an Approved Scheme to price. Spending time and money early on planning and designing your project is money well spent, as defects or changes made at a later stage can be costly in time lost and reworking.
- Use a contract even if it’s a simple project there are a number of simple homeowner building contracts available to buy off the internet, or if the Builder is a member of FMB you can download this one www.home-extension.co.uk/fmbcontract.pdf
For larger projects such as a new house insist on an insurance backed warranty. Although no longer a legal requirement there are 6 warranty schemes still in operation that were approved by the CIC under the designated warranty criteria, these being
- Building Life Plans www.blpinsurance.com
- Build Zone www.build-zone.com
- Checkmate www.checkmate.uk.com
- NHBC www.nhbc.co.uk
- Premier Guarantee www.premierguarantee.co.uk
- CRL www.structuralinsurance.com
In addition you can also now choose cover under a non-designated warranty such as the Architects Certificate scheme if you prefer.
- Professional Consultants Certificate Ltd www.architectscertificate.co.uk
- Advantage Structural Defects Policy www.ahci.co.uk
Lastly don’t forget you may need other permissions such as Planning, Party Wall Awards, Highways etc. CDM regulations also require that the contractor has at least a basic Health and Safety Plan. Ask to see a copy of the plan and a copy of their insurance policy. Don’t be tempted to employ a Builder that will cut costs by working from a ladder when they should have been using a scaffold; as you could find yourself un-insured or even liable if something goes wrong.