“An Inspector (Does Not) Call”
According to a spokesperson for the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI), the organisation which represents private building control bodies, building control here in the UK is at “crisis point” due to a shortage of building inspectors caused by a lack of insurance cover. ACAI considers the statutory regulations on professional indemnity and public liability insurances as excessively stringent which has led to many insurers being unwilling to provide cover for inspectors. As a result, many private building inspectors have stopped working and are referring potential clients to rival companies or local authorities instead.
This is bad news for the construction industry as a whole because approved inspectors work closely with property owners on a wide range of projects from loft conversions all the way through to multi-million-pound shopping centres and high-rise residential towers. The Building Regulations in place in England and Wales have been set by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to ensure that the standards for the design and construction of buildings ensure the health and safety of the people who use those buildings.
The standards also include some requirements for ensuring energy efficiency (the conservation of power and fuel) and accessibility (providing adequate facilities for people, including those with disabilities, to gain access and move around freely inside buildings). The service provided by building inspectors offers a contractual protection to clients in their contracts with construction companies and a 100% guarantee of compliance.
Originally, the service was provided by Local Authorities, but that changed in 1997 to allow clients to choose a private, licensed company to provide the service. These companies are known as Approved Inspectors and they operate in such a way that they now address the requirements of the client with a tailor-made service which suits the specific project. Unlike the Local Authority Building Control, Approved Inspectors must undergo a stringent licensing procedure every five years to ensure that the service they provide and the staff they employ meet the highest professional standards.
According to architects here in the UK, this shortage of Approved Inspectors could have a seriously negative impact on project timelines and on the quality of finished projects. The delay and confusion caused by the lack of Approved Inspectors will result in cases where a forced change of Approved Inspector – transferring responsibility for half-completed projects to a second Approved Inspector or Local Authority. Such cases require that both parties enter into very detailed and precise communication at the point of handover, in order to avoid more buildings with potentially dangerous defects.
The Approved Inspector insurance market is strictly controlled by the government and schemes of insurance for Approved Inspectors must provide for public liability and professional indemnity insurance to cover the Inspector for any losses that arise from claims in respect of their performance of duties as an Approved Inspector.