HHIC joins the debate on Building Regulations Enforcement

25th Oct 2016

 

In late 2015, HHIC and representatives from across the industry joined the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC) at the House of Lords, Westminster to address the important issue of Building Regulations enforcement. The plumbing and heating industry is one of the most regulated areas of construction, non-compliance impacts the business of those who do comply and it puts lives at risk.

APHC invited HHIC to attend this high level meeting with the aim of reviewing the current position on the enforcement of Building Regulations and establishing a range of key priorities to bring about change in this area to benefit bona fide plumbing and heating installers.

Proceedings commenced with a consideration of the current position on the enforcement of Building Regulations, with the emphasis being that the purpose of the meeting was to improve current standards rather than to replace those already existing. Identifying the need to improve the enforcement process, delegates considered whether inspectors have the required background knowledge to enforce regulations and also whether systems were in place to inform customers about a rogue trader as a route to enforcement.

Discussions then moved on to whether or not an appetite for change to Building Regulations exists within Government. From a political perspective it requires the industry to present a strong case for change. Industry knows that wilfully ignoring regulations in order to win work happens. There is also the issue of the interpretation and understanding of regulations, coupled with the lack of enforcement supporting regulations, suggesting that whilst installers usually have the best of intentions, pressures are constantly on bona fide installers to have to compete against contractors pricing for works that are often bending the rules. Feedback on current trends indicates that this situation is worsening rather than improving.

The Westminster summit also included a presentation by Professor Rudi Klein, CEO of the highly influential Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group of which APHC is a member organisation. Beginning by presenting a case for the refinement of enforcement policy, Professor Klein went on to pose several key questions to be considered in achieving this goal. Raising the issue of the high cost of enforcement faced by businesses as a result of the many different competence schemes, Professor Klein asked whether one single scheme could be the key to effective enforcement and also whether responsibility for enforcement should be removed from Local Authorities in favour of creating one national enforcement agency. Considering the issue of finding effective deterrents for non-compliance, Professor Klein asked whether responsible authorities should be placed under greater pressure to deliver on enforcement of regulations and suggested that there needed to be more high profile enforcement cases. He concluded his presentation with the suggestion of joining forces with the electrical industry, which faces similar problems and has recently carried out research, in combatting issues regarding enforcement.

The meeting generated some highly constructive discussion, which made it clear that the group are not about reducing standards but improving on the delivery of current standards. In moving forward we need to be solution focused in considering key issues such as the mandate for competence schemes, consumer awareness, appropriate punishments for non-compliance and how to get the regulations properly enforced. Meetings have continued and the group have started work on a plan of action with the support of the wider industry which is required to move this work onto the next stage.

Initially the group need to establish the level of non-compliance and the root causes. This is being done by three phases of research;

  1. Freedom of Information survey to all 325 Local Authorities based in England and Wales.
  2. Face to Face interviews with plumbing and heating engineers.
  3. Telephone survey with plumbing and heating engineers.

The research findings will lead to the formulation of a solution going forward. HHIC and its members are pleased that this important issue is being addressed by the industry; together we aim to stamp out non-compliance and as a result improve standards within the industry and safety for consumers.

If you do not comply with Building Regulations the local authority may prosecute you in the Magistrates' Court where an unlimited fine may be imposed (sections 35 and 35A of the Building Act 1984). This is possible up to two years after the completion of the work.

If you have any feedback or ideas about this area of work please feel free to get in touch; neil@hhic.org.uk