September 21, 2020

The Editor Speaks: New builders law is long overdue

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Colin Wilson2webI fully agree with Cayman Contractors Association President Heber Arch that the new regulations requiring builders and trades people to be licensed will help ensure a level playing field for the industry

Arch made this statement at the recent Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors conference but he also acknowledged when the new law comes into effect it will add to the building costs. There is no doubt this increase will be passed down to the customer.

However, this will be a small price to pay for the shoddy work from unskilled and/or unqualified contractors that have been doing business on our islands and most with no or at the best inadequate liability insurance.

Arch even accused the builders of not providing pensions for their workers and not complying with the labour law.

What is incredible, although I suppose I shouldn’t be incredulous knowing how time here means nothing, the law was tabled back in 2004! It was actually passed in 2007 but never enacted!!

Arch seems to believe this time it will with a few amendments added at the next Legislative Assembly or failing that the one after.

There has been criticism from a number of quarters that having a board to oversee the new law made up of building contactors will have conflicts of interest. However, Arch gave reassurances that the eight-member board would be broad enough to ensure that no one company was advantaged by its involvement.

There is an estimated 580 building and civil engineering contractors operating in the Cayman islands.

The new law will have different categories of registration from general contractors to sub trades eg. plumbers, roofers and masons, and there will also be a sliding scale of requirements and fees.

At the top end, general contractors, businesses qualified to engage in construction, and civil contractors, businesses that build roads, docks, bridges and utilities infrastructure, must meet the strictest criteria for experience and qualifications. Smaller or less experienced businesses can apply for a separate category of “building contractor” for construction of commercial industrial or residential buildings less than 25,000 square-feet or three stories. A fourth category of “residential contractor” is for businesses that construct or renovate buildings comprising four homes or less.

Premier Alden McLaughlin has given the new law his thumbs up, saying, “The law will bring the competency of the construction industry to a standard that will protect, as well as give confidence to, consumer. Once the law is passed, it will guarantee that plumbers are plumbers, electricians are electricians; carpenters are carpenters.”

This was not the case immediately after Hurricane Ivan when restaurant workers who had no jobs suddenly became carpenters and especially roofers.

As a retired Quantity Surveyor I was drafted in to help with the valuations that were piling up to go to the insurance companies and many more surveyors were brought in from overseas. It was with some consternation that I found I was working alongside some of these ‘surveyors’ who openly confessed they had never done an insurance valuation in their life.

Now it is on the table that legislation for architects and surveyors will also be enacted.

I agree with that, too.

Long overdue.

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