Fears people may be left unable to sell their homes

Concern over Inishowen's high rate of 'Commencement Notice with Opt Out' declarations

Donegal councillors to identify road speed priorities

Cllr Paul Canning has concern over Inishowen's high rate of 'Commencement Notice with Opt Out' declarations.

Concern has been expressed regarding the high rate of 'Commencement Notice with Opt Out' declarations from Inishowen, which are being presented to Donegal County Council's Building Control section.

A 'Commencement Notice with Opt Out' can be used for single dwellings only. The owner is given the option to opt out from the certification process. They are still legally obliged to comply with the building regulations.

Newtowncunningham Councillor Paul Canning (Fianna Fáil) noted that 50% of the commencement notices submitted were ones where the owners have declared themselves to be competent to ensure that the works comply with the Building Regulations.

For this type of commencement notice, an assigned certifier is not appointed and the owner must sign a declaration to ensure that the building is constructed in accordance with the relevant building regulations.

If the 'Commencement Notice with Opt Out' is chosen, the owner is declaring that they are 'competent' and will ensure that the works comply with the building regulations. These are still subject to spot check inspections and must provide compliance documentation upon request.

Figures presented to February's Inishowen Municipal District councillors' meeting, revealed Donegal County Council had received there were 436 commencement notices from Inishowen.

These represented 642 building projects of which there were 510 new units. 189 of these are classified as multi-unit developments.

In comparison, in 2019, there were 478 commencement notices, representing 620 building projects, while in 2018 there were 483 valid commencement notices, representing 608 new build units.

A commencement notice is a notification to Donegal County Council's Building Control Authority that a person intends to carry out either works or a material change of use to which building regulations apply.

Cllr Canning said he wanted to highlight the “seriousness of the situation” when people chose a 'Commencement Notice with Opt Out'.

Cllr Canning added: “People are now taking the 'Commencement Notice with Opt Out' rather than the 'Commencement Notice with Compliance Documentation', when an assigned certifier is appointed to oversee the construction and to ensure that there is compliance with the building regulations.

Cllr Canning said: “The problem with this situation is, further down the line, these people are going to be caught unable to sell their house unless they get it certified.”

Cllr Canning said that, having spoken to a few architects, it seemed insurance companies were increasingly looking for architects to indemnify them, particularly “in the case of mica blocks”.

He added: “Now, whenever an architect is going out to supervise the building of a house, they have no avenue any more to cover the blocks. This means if an architect is signing off on a house, they are signing off on everything, except for the blocks, which makes no sense.

“The insurance companies out there are not covering architects. Our professional body is currently looking into this situation. This, along with the 'Commencement Notice with Opt Out', is a situation Donegal County Council needs to reassess.”

Cllr Canning said there was a need for the Building Control process to be re-examined because “10 or 20 years from now” the situation could be “serious” if the high rate of 'Commencement Notice with Opt Outs' continues.

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