NHBRC has "betrayed the poor"

NHBRC has "betrayed the poor"

NHBRC has "betrayed the poor"
Paul Henry - 02 February 2011

Paul Henry criticises the NHBRC for failing to protect those buying into low-cost units.
National Home Builders' Registration Council (NHBRC) has failed to protect the very people it was originally set up to help most, those buying into low-cost units.
The NHBRC, which came into existence some 15 years ago, is responsible for "policing" home builders to ensure that poor quality construction is eliminated. In return for a 1,3% fee levied on the total cost of the house and its land, they inspect the home at specified stages during the construction and, if satisfied on completion, provide structural insurance and a five-year warranty on the house. To qualify for this, the builder has to be a member of the NHBRC and to pay his levies on time.
If the builder does not register with the NHBRC, no buyer of the home will be able to get a bond until it has stood for five years. Even owner builders should, therefore, enrol with the NHBRC.
These rulings give great power to the NHBRC. Should an inspector detect poor workmanship, he will issue a "non-compliance" certificate which obliges the builder to remedy the problem within 48 hours, failing which he will be issued with a "cease work" order.
This system is basically sound and has raised standards among SA builders, but the NHBRC failed to insist that they must be involved on all low-cost housing and - with the result that 3 000 homes are now having to be demolished or repaired.
Sipho Mashinini, Chief Executive of the NHBRC, said that he holds the State responsible for the non registration and that changes in the NHBRC's mandate will be made to improve the situation - but no radical changes are in fact required: it is already agreed that all low cost housing builders should be NHBRC members.
The truth is that the Council turned a blind eye to the activities in the low cost sector and let them continue without interference. Now, inevitably, SA is paying a high price for the shoddy workmanship allowed in so many contracts.
What makes the situation particularly frustrating is that the NHBRC has focused on monitoring established recognised builders and developers who by and large employ qualified architects and engineers who already have professional insurers able to pay up in the event of any serious failures - and who, therefore do not need the NHBRC Insurance.
The impression given is that the NHBRC is concerned only with those high value contracts where their fee will be large and the inspection task a matter of routine. The sector most in need of protection and most likely to engage unqualified builders has been overlooked.
Also frustrating is the fact that although the NHBRC is now sitting on a fund the size of which is not disclosed but which it is said now runs into billions, the actual number of structural failure payouts has been minimal.
When a claim is made by the owner of a home or his bond issuer, the NHBRC is mandated to put pressure on the builder to rectify the matter. In practice this has often had little effect because certain builders will close down their operations and restart under another name. Some will do only minor repairs and string the NHBRC along. Others will simply disappear. I would guess that less than 10% of claims have been paid.
The standard of workmanship by many start-up companies handling provincial and municipal housing leaves much to be desired.
It is these companies which the NHBRC should have been disciplining. In failing to insist on this they have betrayed the poor and let us all down.
*Paul Henry is the managing director of Rawson Developers

Keywords - NHBRC, betrayed the poor, Sipho Mashinini, failed to protect, billions, low-cost units, low cost housing, SA builders, South Africa construction, poor workmanship, Paul Henry

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