“It would be unthinkable to buy a car for £50,000 without a warranty, yet for building works of a similar value not taking out a warranty remains common, if not standard, practice….”
….says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in their ‘Raising the Bar’ report which looks to increase standards of quality and professionalism in the building trade.
When we have work done on our homes, we expect it to be carried out with reasonable care and skill and that the traders will return day after day to finish the job, and that there is some recourse if things go wrong. Many consumers will not realise their protection comes in the form of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) which was based on the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. The CRA is based on principles, trust and giving the trader the opportunity to correct any issues. There is no requirement to provide any sort of protection in case the trader dissolves or refuses to come back to correct issues. The consumer can be left alone with the daunting and stressful possibility of court action looming. How can the consumer be confident that the work was carried out correctly in the first place?
Despite comprehensive protection for consumers under the CRA, it is a sad fact that problems still exist in the RMI (repair, maintenance and improvement) industry and we want to improve the situation. As with all consumer protection systems stringent and clear rules are good but without effective enforcement and consumer education, they could fail.
We want to reduce consumer detriment and raise industry standards.
The FMB have proposed the following principles:
- A licensing system for all construction firms
- Mandatory warranties for building control approved work
- A new ‘general builder’ qualification
In countries such as Australia, certain trades are required to carry a licence. Although the requirements vary from state to state, the application examines areas such as financial position, knowledge and police records. We already undertake stringent checks on our members as we only want to accept those members that want to raise standards and reduce consumer problems.
We understand that these checks do not guarantee the work will always be carried out to a high standard, but they go some way to ensuring the trader is competent and knowledgeable.
Mandatory warranties for building control approved work
The report suggests that existing building regulations should be adapted to ensure that a 24-month warranty is included for building work. We would suggest we look a little bit further and not just make it part of the building control regulations, but incorporate the requirement to provide warranties for all RMI work, although how this could be enforced and whether this should be for absolutely every RMI job (some of which can be very small) is still up for debate.
A new general builder qualification
Absolutely anybody can call themselves a builder and go into people’s houses and carry out work. Although there’s a lot to be said for entrepreneurship and getting people into the building trade, consumers’ confidence would be greatly increased if they knew that the person working in their home had a minimum level of competence.
In summary, we are supportive of this campaign and want to see consumers happy with the quality of the builders’ work, but we would like to ensure that the licensing is enforced. There are methods of doing this, either through legislation, or as is more common now self-regulators taking the lead and being responsible for the vetting, ongoing accreditation and enforcement.
HIES are pleased to have been invited to the launch event on the 2nd July at the House of Lords, follow our Policy account @hiespolicy for updates on the day.