Residents neighbouring building sites to vet method statements
Once up and running, the Buildings Regulations Office will not be vetting "method statements" submitted by contractors carrying out work in urban areas.
The office, which will be set up through a Building Regulations Act expected to be presented to Parliament in October, will only be reviewing a sample of the statements outlining the method of work.
Instead, it will be up to residents neighbouring the building sites to review these statements and object if they believe the way work is carried out does not provide enough safeguards for their property.
In most cases, this will mean the owners of properties adjacent to the development will have to pay an architect to review these method statements.
When this was pointed out during a press briefing called yesterday to explain the building regulations, Resources Minister George Pullicino said one could choose to appoint an architect or not. "That's life," he said.
Architect John Ebejer said reviewing each and every permit would pose a problem of resources and might bog down developments.
The method statement will include a report on the condition of adjoining properties since developers would be liable for any damage to third-party property under the regulations.
Property owners will have up to 30 days to contest the report. This is another situation where those who have no architectural knowledge will have to appoint an expert.
The office is bound to investigate any complaints and can request the developer to submit a revised method. It can even halt works if the method statement is breached.
"The aim is to improve work practices, reduce damage and people's concerns," Mr Pullicino said.
The regulations will legally oblige developers to take out an insurance policy and deposit a bank guarantee of up to €40,000 to make good for any damage not covered by insurance, such as fissures or dislodged tiles in an adjoining property - the major complaints by neighbours.
Mr Pullicino said discussions with the Malta Insurance Association revealed that not everything was covered by insurance, which was why the bank guarantee was necessary.
According to Mr Pullicino, insurance will put more pressure on contractors to do their job properly or risk not finding someone to insure them.
Developers would have to appoint a site manager or be deemed responsible for any damages.
Moreover, mandatory arbitration will be introduced to relieve pressure from the courts and make it easier for injured parties to make claims, although they will still be able to take matters to court.
Under the Cabinet-approved regulations, contractors will have to be registered and classified according to what jobs they are equipped to carry out.
"We need a change of mentality so that contractors only do the work they are classified for," Mr Pullicino said.
He said that in other countries, similar regulations had been self-induced by the sector: "Here we do not have a culture of self-regulation."
"The sector has been left like a jungle and needs to be regulated," he said, although he qualified his comment by saying not everyone was a cowboy.
He said discussions were also expected to start with the Malta Standards Authority and the Malta Transport Authority towards more enforcement when it came to cranes. Other regulations relate to time constraints for the operation of mechanical excavators and measures to reduce vibrations from adjoining buildings.