Building standards: procedural handbook (third edition, version 1.6)
Clarifies procedures underpinning the Scottish building standards system as set out in the Building (Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2004 and the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 to help with practical operation.
5.1 Why a completion certificate is needed
5.1.1. A completion certificate is needed to confirm that a building has been constructed, demolished or converted in accordance with the relevant building warrant and to comply with the building regulations. It is the responsibility of the relevant person (usually the owner or developer – see paragraph 5.2.1) to build correctly or to ensure building is done correctly, as verifiers cannot regularly or sufficiently monitor all construction work to check that the regulation requirements are being met. Consequently, the relevant person should ensure that adequate procedures are in place to allow the completion certificate to be properly submitted. This will include reminding any approved certifier of construction involved of the obligation of the relevant person to certify, when submitting a completion certificate, that the work has been both completed in accordance with the warrant and, more generally, in accordance with the building regulations. It is an offence to submit a completion certificate that is known to be false.
Note that if the relevant person is unsure about their responsibilities or the building standards procedures they can appoint an agent to act on their behalf. It is recommended that this person is a suitably qualified and experienced building professional, for example an architect, building surveyor or structural engineer. Similarly, it is the responsibility of the relevant person to make sure that work is carried out by a qualified and experienced building professional, ideally registered with a reputable trade or professional body.
5.1.2. Further, it is an offence to occupy a new building, a conversion or an extension unless the relevant completion certificate has been accepted. It is, however, possible to obtain permission for temporary occupation or use, under section 21 of the Act, from the verifier. The application may be made by the relevant person (see paragraph 5.2.1).
Note that the prevention of occupation does not apply to buildings subject to alterations but it is still a requirement of the regulations that a completion certificate for the alterations is submitted before expiry of the warrant.
5.1.3. When an application for temporary occupation or use is made, the person signing the declaration is confirming compliance with building regulations. The verifier will undertake reasonable inquiry and if satisfied will permit temporary occupation or use, for a specified period of time. Any mitigation measures presented will also be taken into account, for example, means of escape within a partially completed building.
The verifier will monitor the time period and will advise the person who made the application when this is about to expire. It is the responsibility of this person to apply for an extension of time before the expiry date. On the expiry of the period, and should the building continue to be occupied or used, the building will be deemed to be occupied illegally and an offence committed, that may result in enforcement action by the local authority.
The verifier may require additional supporting information to be submitted (similar to that of a completion certificate) with the application. See 5.2.
5.2 How to submit a completion certificate
5.2.1. On completion of either work (which includes demolition) or conversion for which a warrant is required, the ‘relevant person’ must submit a completion certificate. The ‘relevant person’ is defined in the Act at section 17(10) but can be summarised as:
- the owner, tenant or developer doing the building work or conversion themselves; or
- the owner, tenant or developer who has employed a builder to do work for them; or
- the owner, where the tenant, developer or builder has not submitted the certificate when they should have done so.
Note that the owner must always be named on the completion certificate, as the procedure regulations require an owner to be notified when a completion certificate is accepted or rejected. The checks by verifiers and approved certifiers help to protect the public interest but do not remove the relevant person’s responsibility for ensuring compliance with the building regulations. A duly authorised agent may sign this completion certificate on behalf of the relevant person but this does not move the responsibility for compliance, which remains with the relevant person.
5.2.2. The submission must be made to the verifier, on a form provided by the verifier, either on paper or by electronic means (where the verifier has this facility). The accompanying information can be on paper, in an electronic format or in a combination as agreed with the verifier. Where required by building standards 6.9 and 7.1, this must include a copy of the energy performance certificate(s) and statement of sustainability respectively for the building(s). Examples of the format used for energy performance certificates and the statement of sustainability are available on the BSD website along with guidance on a fire safety design summary https://www.gov.scot/policies/building-standards/. The completion certificate form includes an annex that should be completed if any approved certifiers of construction have been used and the original, signed certificate(s) should accompany the completion certificate.
Verifiers may require additional supporting information dependent on the nature and complexity of the building. The following table provides examples:
|Information to accompany completion certificate submission|
|Form 5 – Completion Submission|
|Roof Truss Certificate|
|Wall ties/structural restraint inspection report|
|Fire detection and alarm Certificate|
|Automatic fire suppression system Commissioning Certificate|
|Emergency Lighting Certificate|
|Fire/smoke dampers commissioning Certificate|
|Smoke ventilation system commissioning Certificate|
|Smoke Curtain Drop Test and Commissioning|
|Intumescent paint/cladding Certificate|
|Fire door installation inspection report|
|Fire Rated Glazing and Framing Certificate|
|Fire stopping inspection report|
|Dry Fire Main Commissioning Certificate|
|Fire Safety Design Summary|
|Certificate of Construction (Plumb/Heat/Drain)|
|Boiler Commission Certificate|
|Gas Safety Information|
|Unvented Hot Water Competence|
|MVHR/MEV/dMEV Commissioning Certificate|
|Scottish Water/SEPA Approval|
|Drain Test inspection reports (in addition to any actual tests by the verifier)|
|Certificate of Construction (Electrics)|
|Electrical installation test Certificate – BS7671|
|Lift Commissioning Certificate|
|Evidence of Safety Glass Fitted|
|Noise Test Certificate|
|Air Tightness Test Certificate|
|Quick start guide (domestic)|
|Logbook information (non-domestic)|
5.2.3. From October 2013 regulation 41(bd) of the Building (Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2004 requires a fire safety design summary to be submitted with the completion certificate where it relates to the construction of, or conversion to, a new non-domestic building. For the purposes of these regulations a ‘fire safety design summary’ means information relating to the design and construction of the building, and the services, fittings and equipment provided in or in connection with the building, which will assist in the operation and maintenance of the building for fire safety purposes.
5.2.4. It should be noted that where an approved certifier of construction intends to deviate from the approved warrant drawings, the applicant or the agent must submit an application for an amendment of warrant. This should be obtained before the work is done. This is necessary to allow the relevant person, when submitting the completion certificate, to state that the work has been done in accordance with both the building regulations and the building warrant.
5.2.5. The Building (Scotland) Act, does not require a certificate to be submitted with the completion certificate by the electrical installer. Verifiers will, however, still seek proof that the installation is properly done. Unless the installation is covered by an approved certifier of construction, detailed evidence may be required.
5.2.6. Where there are several buildings covered by a warrant (excluding new dwellings or existing dwellings in different ownership), the regulations permit the submission of a completion certificate related to either, each building or to all buildings covered by the warrant. The 2007 amendments to the Building (Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2004 allow a single completion certificate to be submitted in the case of work to existing dwellings in the same ownership. It is intended that this will cover such work as the upgrading of an estate consisting of social housing where it may be more convenient to all involved to have a single completion certificate and acceptance for the entire project. For new dwellings, however, a completion certificate is required for each individual dwelling. On an estate of houses, a completion certificate must be submitted and accepted for each dwelling, provided the common services required by the building regulations for that dwelling have been completed. In other words, a completion certificate should not be accepted for a dwelling until it is connected to a suitable drainage system or until access to a suitable road is complete. (Note that matters not covered by a warrant, such as street lighting are, however, outside the scope of the certificate).
5.2.7. It should be noted that the final completion certificate for the last dwelling cannot be accepted until all the common items are complete.
5.2.8. In blocks of flats, the completion certificate for an individual flat cannot be accepted until the common areas affecting that flat are complete, including, for example, the common stairs or landings, access and facilities for firefighting. The completion certificate for the final flat cannot be accepted until works to all the common areas (internally and externally) are complete. If an approved certifier of construction is used, a certificate of construction should accompany each completion certificate submitted.
5.2.9. It is essential in all cases where submissions and/or acceptance cover only part of the warrant application and in particular in relation to groups of dwellings, that the buildings or dwellings involved are consistently and accurately designated on the completion certificate, the acceptance and the building standards register.
5.2.10. The verifier is only responsible for taking reasonable inquiry to check compliance with building regulations at the completion certificate stage. The relevant person should be aware that they may have responsibilities under other legislation and not only building standards legislation. See chapter 14 for further information. The roles are shown in Table 5 for information only.
5.3 Late completion certificate submission without a warrant
5.3.1. Where work has been carried out or a conversion made without a warrant when there should have been a warrant applied for, a completion certificate must still be submitted. However, in this case the certificate may only be accepted if it confirms that the work or conversion has been carried out in accordance with, and now complies with, the building regulations applicable at the time of the submission of the completion certificate.
6.3.2. A completion certificate submission must provide plans and specification details equivalent to those for a warrant application, so that the verifier can adequately assess whether to accept the certificate. Discounts for certificates from approved certifiers of design and approved certifiers of construction are allowed. The submission attracts a higher fee. See the section on Fees for details.
5.3.3. There is no limit as to how long after the completion of the work a late completion certificate may be submitted but it is always the regulations at the time of submission that must be met. It therefore becomes increasingly unlikely that work carried out will comply with the current regulations and further work will have to be carried out before a completion certificate can be accepted. However, as the completion certificate is a late submission it will require to be accompanied by drawings and an appropriate fee and any extra work required to comply can be shown on or added to, the drawings as with a building warrant application. It should be noted, however, that if extensive additional works are required, a separate building warrant may need to be submitted.
5.3.4. A certificate from an approved certifier of either design or construction may be part of a completion certificate that has been submitted late but the certifier must assess the work against the regulations applying at the time of the submission of the completion certificate. It is an offence to issue a certificate that is false or misleading, so the certifier must be satisfied, if necessary by checks, inspection or tests, that the work is in compliance.
5.3.5. In the case of work covered by a certificate of construction, a verifier may not request a materials test before accepting the completion certificate. However if a local authority wishes to take enforcement action, they may under section 39(4) of the Act carry out reasonable tests to determine the quality and strength of any material.
5.4 Acceptance or rejection of completion certificate
5.4.1. A verifier must accept a completion certificate if, after reasonable inquiry, they are satisfied the work/conversion certified complies with the relevant warrant and building regulations. If the work/conversion does not comply the completion certificate must be rejected. The verifier must, in reaching this decision, accept that a certificate issued by an approved certifier of construction is ‘conclusive of the facts to which it relates’. The verifier must, however, check that the approved certifier is registered, on the date on which the certificate of construction was signed, and that the certificate of construction is counter-signed by a body that is approved at that date to co-ordinate the certification of such matters. There is no requirement for a verifier to check that certifiers are still registered at either the date of submission or the date of acceptance of the completion certificate.
5.4.2. Reasonable inquiry would, in terms of the Act, include consultation with those specified in the procedure regulations in relation to the specified kinds of work. At present, consultation is not specified but guidance is given in chapter 14 on when consultation will normally be required. It is also likely to include inspection (see paragraphs at 5.5).
5.4.3. The submitted completion certificate should be on a prescribed form which includes an annex to list any available certificates of construction. Although a discount is only provided on the warrant fee if it is indicated at application stage that a certificate of construction will be provided with the completion certificate submission, certificates of construction may still be forwarded in support of the completion certificate submission. If certificates of construction are not included with the completion certificate submission when it was stated on the warrant application form that they would be, any discount given should be paid to the verifier as other enquiries must be made and this may affect the processing of the completion certificate. The verifier may also require additional disruptive inspections to be carried out. See 5.3 regarding late completion certificates.
5.4.4. Some product certificates, such as those accepted by local authorities in the previous system in relation to intumescent products, may continue to be accepted as evidence of compliance. Such documents should not be confused with certificates from approved certifiers where there is considerable protection given to both clients and verifiers through the approval scheme.
5.4.5. Verifiers and those submitting completion certificates, should note that the Act does not provide for views by Scottish Ministers to be sought on whether completed building work may be accepted as meeting the regulations.
5.4.6. A verifier must provide a response as to whether a submitted completion certificate is acceptable within 14 days or such longer period as has been agreed with the person making the submission (but see 5.4.7). It will be normal to agree a longer period if remedial works are required to be carried out to allow the completion certificate to be accepted. If a submission is rejected the verifier must give that person the reasons for rejection. If a decision has not been taken within the 14-day period the application is deemed to have been rejected (but see 5.4.7). Where an amendment to warrant is required, the completion certificate should be rejected and a new certificate submitted covering all the works once the amendment has been issued. Following a rejection, the person making the submission may appeal to the Sheriff against the decision.
5.4.7. There is one exception to the time limit in 5.4.6. Where a completion certificate has been submitted but no warrant was obtained when it should have been, the timings for the consideration are the same as for considering a warrant application (see 3.6).
Figure 6: Completion Certificate
Process Of Obtaining Acceptance Of A Completion Certificate
1. Relevant person defined in the Act and summarised at paragraph 5.2.1.
2. Reasonable inquiry may include:
Site inspection against the warrant drawings/functional standards.
Checking validity of certificates from approved certifiers of construction.
3. A verifier must provide a response to a completion certificate submission within 14 days.
4. The verifier should also obtain agreement that the 14 day response period is to be extended.
5. Applicant/owner may appeal to sheriff against the decision to reject the completion certificate.
6. This applies to new build, extensions or conversion. Other alteration work need not prevent continued occupation.
5.5 Inspection and tests
5.5.1. Following the submission of a completion certificate, the verifier usually carries out a non-disruptive inspection of the work. However, as a verifier need only make ‘reasonable inquiry’ before acceptance of the certificate there can be circumstances where a site inspection may not be needed.
For example, if the verifier has carried out previous inspections in accordance with the Construction Compliance Notification Plan, these may have provided sufficient assurance to inform the verifier’s decision.
5.5.2. Also, where the application relates to repetitive work over several buildings, such as the application of external insulation to blocks of flats, random inspections of say 30% of the dwellings may be sufficient if all inspections indicate compliance. If defects are found, more detailed inspections will be required, depending on the frequency and seriousness of the defects.
5.5.3. If they consider it necessary, under section 41(2) of the Act a verifier may require a ‘materials test’ to be completed or test results to be provided if tests have already been carried out. A ‘materials test’ can include a test of materials in combination, for example, a separating wall or even a whole building, as well as individual materials. The verifier may be prepared to carry out the test but in all cases the full costs of materials tests are to be borne by the relevant person unless the verifier chooses to reduce the cost.
5.5.4. In the case of work covered by a certificate of construction, a verifier may not request a materials test before accepting a completion certificate. However, if a local authority wishes to take enforcement action they may under section 39(4) of the Act carry out reasonable tests to determine the quality and strength of any material.
5.5.5. Disruptive inspections and tests are, however, permitted when applications for completion certificate are made without a warrant having been obtained when it should have been, unless the works are covered by a certificate of construction.
5.5.6. It should be noted that while the Act does not include an automatic right to enter a building to inspect, where entry is denied a verifier can refuse to accept a completion certificate. If appropriate, a verifier can ask the local authority to use the power in section 39(4) of the Act to inspect the building to ensure the work has been carried out in accordance with the warrant, in case a section 27 notice is necessary.
5.5.7. Guidance within the Technical Handbooks on compliance with particular functional standards identifies a need for testing to establish performance. For example, testing under standard 5.1 (noise separation) to verify sound transmission performance levels and under standard 6.1 (carbon dioxide emissions) to verify design levels of air infiltration.
5.6 Continuing requirements
5.6.1. On occasion, in order to be satisfied that the purposes of the regulations will not be frustrated, for example, by some change that is liable to happen unless care is taken to prevent it, a verifier may impose some continuing requirement.
For example, if glass cleaning depended on access being maintained to certain areas, a continuing requirement to keep access clear could be imposed and could be enforced later if any attempt to reduce the access was made (see also paragraphs at 7.3 and 7.4 for further information on continuing requirements).
A further example is where a warrant application is made for a building shell and a subsequent fit out is then undertaken. The warrant granted for the shell should include a continuing requirement which prevents occupation of the building until the fit out is completed and compliance of the finished building with the standards is demonstrated (see paragraph 3.5.7 for further details).
5.7 Maintenance of records
5.7.1. A local authority is required to record on the building standards register the completion certificates submitted, including any plans, specifications, certificates of construction and other relevant documents or information, together with the decisions made as to acceptance or rejection (see chapter 8). When local authorities are acting as verifiers they do not need to keep other records. If in future other verifiers are appointed, the procedure regulations will be amended to require the relevant information to be sent to the relevant local authority for registering.
5.7.2. In relation to the certificates of construction, the registration numbers of the approved certifiers and bodies should be recorded. The verifier should also note the aspects of work for which they have accepted certificates and the results of the eligibility checks on the certifiers.
5.7.3. In the event that a verifier refuses to accept a completion certificate because certificates of construction are submitted by individuals who do not hold appropriate designations or bodies that are not currently approved, the verifier should provide written notification to the relevant Scheme Provider organisation.
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