SUNBIZ

Be Practical, Builders In Fiji MustBe Licensed

What the requirement will do is flush out those people who are not qualified but are currently work­ing as builders in the industry.
23 Feb 2019 21:05
Be Practical, Builders In Fiji MustBe Licensed
Trainees engaged in building a house in Nabalebale Village, Cakaudrove. Photo: DEPTFO

The concept of licensing people who want to go into the busi­ness of building as a profes­sion is quite normal in most coun­tries.

There are very practical reasons why it is a necessary safeguard.

National Building Code in Fiji

With the introduction of a Nation­al Building Code in Fiji will almost certainly come as a requirement to be knowledgeable for any per­son who has a business that offers building services to be a licence holder.

To be awarded a license any per­son will have to prove that they have the required level of knowl­edge and experience in the indus­try and are capable of carrying out the work in a manner that is acceptable to the Licensing Board (or whatever Body is established by the Government to appoint people as construction personnel) and can meet a set of criteria for the issue of the license.

These criteria will be detailed and open to everyone and the Board will require at least one licensed builder to be responsible for the operations of any business that is involved in the industry.

This is no different to many other business and is common in service providers to the building industry such as electricians, plumbers, surveyors, engineers and a wide range of other services.

Up until now however, there has been no legal requirement for the most important person, the build­er, to hold a licence.

The licence is only issued when ­the person has satisfied the Board or issuing body that he is capa­ble of undertaking all the work required and experienced in the building industry.

A licence is proof for everyone that they are dealing with someone who can be relied on to complete the work in a professional manner.

Builder’s licence

The builder’s licence is the essen­tial component missing from the industry in Fiji.

If the standards required by the new Code are to be met then there needs to be a method of ensuring that the construction is controlled by a person, or persons, who un­derstands the demands of the Code and how to apply them.

The legislation will demand that buildings can only proceed under the control of a licensed person and that person takes responsibili­ty for the standard of the construc­tion.

However, with a licence comes much responsibility.

In most countries a licence is not easily given.

The applicant has to prove that he has the knowledge and experience to adhere to the Code’s standards.

Generally, the applicant will be re­quired to demonstrate some form of study related to the industry and will be required to work in the industry for a period of time under an already licensed person.

Generally the first licence issued would have limitations on what sort of building the person is al­lowed to undertake and as experi­ence is gained, the applicant will progress to a full licence.

That’s fine, but how effective will a licensing system be in Fiji.

The licence performs a lot of dif­ferent but related functions.

Usually the funding authority will want to ensure that a builder is licensed before any project is fi­nanced.

In other words, no licence, no loan.

The licence is part of the lenders risk reduction process.

Unlicensed builder

An unlicensed builder will not be able to get the necessary approvals from the statutory bodies to carry out the construction.

Of course, the application can be made by a licensed builder and the work carried out by an unlicensed person.

But the legal responsibility rests with the person who made the ap­plication and any costs of rectify­ing sub-standard work will be the responsibility of the licensed per­son, so such practices carry very heavy financial risks.

There are no licensed builders in Fiji right now, so there will need to be a time allowed in the new Build­ing Code for people to get qualified for a licence, and it is certain that this will be the case.

A significant number of people working in the industry would right now qualify and it is not fore­seen that there will be any real is­sue with finding builders.

What the requirement will do is flush out those people who are not qualified but are currently work­ing as builders in the industry. With licensing will come a greater compliance with all the standards of the Code, and that can only be good for the people who are con­tracting builders for their projects.

To ensure that the standard of the finished building is acceptable, all anyone will need to do is ask to see the building licence.

A licence is not a guarantee

A licence is not necessarily a guarantee of the quality of the work, but if the work is not up to standard then the remedy is much simpler.

Any failure to finish the project to acceptable standard will be able to be resolved through the legal obli­gations that attach to the licence, probably through the licensing Board.

Licensing of builders alone will not put a stop to the sub-standard work that is too often seen in pro­jects in Fiji.

But together with the Building Code, there will be a legal basis for obtaining redress, something which has been missing from the equation up until now.

The Building Code will not only affect builders but the standards contained in the Code must be ob­served by all the other practition­ers, even down to the hardware suppliers.

If a builder orders material to specification and the material sup­pled is not to that standard then there is recourse by the builder.

Under the code it is the responsi­bility of the builder to ensure that all hardware items do comply with the standards set by the Code so more care will be taken with sup­plies.

The introduction of the Building Code and the licensing of builders will make a significant difference to the standard of buildings in Fiji.

It will, in the end, have a positive effect on the Fijian building indus­try.

Licences would be issued annu­ally, will probably cover all persons in the industry (designers, build­ers, material suppliers, and any po­sition not already licensed).

Complaints would be heard by the Licensing Board and an annual fee would be charged for each licence.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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