Should I opt out of costly compliance paperwork?

Property Clinic: Peace of mind may suffer over a new build in a garden and create trouble in the future

What are the pro and cons of providing paperwork for the Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR) of 2014 over the construction of a small garden house

What are the pro and cons of providing paperwork for the Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR) of 2014 over the construction of a small garden house

 

I am retired and have just got planning permission to build a two-bedroom house in the garden. I understand that regulations introduced in 2014 require paperwork to satisfy all statutory bodies and could cost an extra €3,000-€5,000. As a one-off house, you can opt out of these extra requirements. However, when I die my son, now living in London, may wish to sell the house. Would you advise me to pay for the extra paperwork or opt out? They say that if you leave your affairs in a mess people will be talking about you for a long time – I’d prefer everything to go smoothly. Would opting out of the extra paperwork make it more difficult to sell the house at a future date? Thanking you in anticipation.

It is understandable that anyone building a house, and who is unfamiliar with the Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR) of 2014, may see it as an administrative “paperwork” exercise costing money with limited real benefit. You are right to question the potential downsides in taking this “opt-out” course of action.

An amendment to the 2014 Act introduced by SI. 365 of 2015 seemed a tantalising opportunity to save money by availing of an opt-out. However, this represents an easing only – of some supporting documentation, inspection, certification and sign-off requirements. What is missing is the protection through a transparent and rigorous independent inspection and certification regime provided by the 2014 full BCAR requirements demonstrating that the building is in compliance.

While the self-certification requirements, introduced in the 2014 BCAR Regulations, addressed a shortcoming recognised originally in the 1990 Building Control Act (ie self-certification option), this provision was not enacted, at that time, in the 1991 Building Control Regulations.

In deciding to opt out, it means you are not required to lodge statutory undertaking and certificates by the designer, assigned certifier and builder, or lodge an inspection plan. You are effectively making the decision to not have a design certifier sign off on the building, and you have decided not to have an assigned certifier inspect and oversee the works. Furthermore, you will not be able to register a Certificate of Compliance on Completion with your Local Authority.

For lodgment purposes, owners are tacitly assuming the roles of owner, designer and assigned certifier. They must complete a valid commencement notice, declaration of intention to opt out, nomination of a competent builder, submit general arrangement drawings (not planning drawings), a schedule of documents and compliance statement. They need to fully consider the potential downside of choosing this opt-out route as, unless they are competent to ensure full compliance, they are electing to remove key safeguards in the 2014 BCAR regulations.

Arguably Opt-outs are assuming an onerous role with limited savings being generated as most of the initial costs envisaged will be difficult to avoid in order to comply

As owners are not exempted from the building regulations, as distinct from the opt out in the building control regulations, you need to consider your vulnerability. An opt-out may lead to a potential diminution in value or future sales resistance or even exposure in the event of a very significant non-compliance that is not picked up prior to the completion stage.

Before deciding, you should first check with your lending agency and solicitor, as some lenders will actively discourage opt-outs and require full BCAR compliance.

Opt-outs, in particular, are likely to fall back on providing an “opinion of substantial compliance” with planning and building regulations undertaken by an architect, engineer or building surveyor (though not a statutory requirement). Such opinions regarding building regulations are likely to have so many “caveats” (beware of ) in the report that it will provide limited comfort and protection for current owners and can hardly be relied on by future owners.

In conclusion, you are advised to seek legal advice if you decide to opt out as you may only be “kicking the can down the road”. The alternative course, if properly executed, should give you greater peace of mind.

Kevin Sheridan is a chartered surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie

I have an ongoing issue with damp staining on my bathroom ceiling. My bathroom is on the first floor with an insulated attic above. A damp stain appeared on the ceiling shortly after I inserted an extract fan. The installation of the fan was recommended to me as we had issues with mould in the house. The fan is working well and mould has abated but now this new issue has arisen. Have you any advice on what may be causing the problem? The roof above this area is in very good condition.

The introduction of an extract fan to your bathroom was a good move and clearly has helped reduce the problem of mould. In most homes condensation and mould arises out of water vapour generated through the use of showers and baths. The rapid removal of steam with a fan prevents water droplets forming in the bathroom or escaping and condensing in colder rooms in the house.

The damp stain has only appeared after the introduction of the new fan and therefore, dampness is most likely to be associated with this installation. This narrows the issue down to two distinct possibilities; the first instance, and the more likely one, relates to how the new fan discharges to the outside. It is common to install a vent tile on the roof and connect this with a flexible duct back to the extract fan. The fan, if installed correctly, will be wired with an isolator to the light switch and have a 15 minute over-run. This means that the fan will continue to run after the bathroom light is switched off. However, it is not unusual for this tile to leak or to allow water to enter the duct. If there is a joint or puncture on the duct, this can allow leakage and staining to occur.

The second potential issue is the issue of vapour condensing within the duct. Ducts should be insulated to prevent this from happening. Is the duct length excessive? Is the duct uninsulated and located in the “cold zone” above the attic insulation? If so it is common for vapour to condense in the duct. If there is a fall back to the fan location, condensed water can travel backwards in the duct and egress at the fan or at a puncture or poorly formed joint.

My advice would be to first check the connection and fitment of the vent tile or slate and repair the under-tile felt if cut. Check the duct to see if it is punctured. To do this you should pull back the insulation directly above the damp spot on the ceiling to establish if this coincides with a dip or puncture in the duct. If punctured the duct should be replaced. Refit the duct below the insulation so that it is now within the “warm zone” and less likely to be subject to condensation. Ensure that there is a 15 minute over-run on the fan so that all traces of vapour are removed from the bathroom and duct. When these works are completed, you should touch up decoration on the damp patch to the ceiling. If the problem persists, contact your local building surveyor who will assist with a more thorough investigation of the issue.

Noel Larkin is a chartered building surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie

Send your queries to propertyquestions@irishtimes.com or to Property Clinic, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2. This column is a readers’ service. Advice given is general and individual advice should always be sought