Review of building rules stirs old ghosts
Published 04/05/2015 | 02:30
One can understand the intent behind the plan being considered by Environment Minister Alan Kelly to relax the inspection regime on building extensions and one-off homes. It is an attempt to treat builders and customers more reasonably.
But the proposed changes bring more than a little danger along with the undoubted advantages. There is a fear we could be headed back to the horrors like Priory Hall.
That horror story, admittedly at the further end of the building problem situations, will ultimately set taxpayers back €30m.
The toll of human suffering for people trying to provide themselves with a home is much greater.
From Mr Kelly's viewpoint, it is undoubtedly right to address a situation where people commissioning a one-off house could face inspection fees totalling up to €16,000. Such costs risk depriving rural people of the opportunity to build a new home, losing vital business for small building operators and further retarding the much-needed revival of the building sector.
The Building Control Amendment Regulations, which took effect in March 2014, were designed to head off cases like Priory Hall. The rules demand inspection by an architect, engineer, or building surveyor at key stages in the building process.
Three main options for change have emerged. First is making the regulations "advisory", rather than "mandatory" for smaller building projects. The 'opt out' would allow people avoid being held to ransom by certifiers. But it could also result in a two-tier housing system, resulting in difficulties securing mortgages or house insurance.
The option of widening the categories of professionals who can become certifiers carries no guarantee of lower costs. But a template system to speed up inspections could prove to be the answer.
It is a difficult situation but far from insoluble. Whatever remedy is chosen, it must strike a balance between easing the costs of an inspection regime and maintaining its efficacy.
Too much regulation is as bad as too little.