The recent earthquakes in neighboring countries, as well as the aftershocks, felt in Cyprus, have brought to the forefront what we have been saying for years: the need to check the suitability of all our buildings on a regular basis.
It is encouraging that legislation is being promoted that will require periodic building inspections and the issuance of Certificates of Structural Integrity that will be valid for a fixed period of time. As I understand it, the period of time will be determined by a number of factors, including the type of construction, the standards to which it was designed, the date of construction, and possibly other important parameters that we will not discuss.
The following steps will be determined by the primary structural integrity check. If it passes the inspection, the certificate is issued and the next inspection date is set. If it fails the inspection, the next steps are determined to make the building structurally sound.
In other words, a secondary – possibly tertiary – structural integrity check will be performed, and appropriate repairs will be made based on the findings. Once the repairs have been completed and certified, the procedure is repeated by scheduling a new primary inspection for a later date, and so on.
Many describe the process as similar to that of the car MOT. We strongly agree. Those who find it difficult to comprehend may also consider colonoscopy procedures in humans, but for buildings. And that pretty well describes the process!
I personally haven't seen what the bill includes, but I would like it to first include all kinds of buildings - public and private where people live, work and visit. So from single-family homes to high-rise buildings, shopping malls, hotels, etc. However, some exemptions in the first stage may be made such as agricultural and livestock buildings.
Beyond that, the law should specify exactly what is controlled at each level, who controls it, and how to ensure that it is done correctly. As a result, a record of surveyors with dates and times of building inspections, as well as inspection sheets with all findings, including observations, should be kept. The more stringent things are at this point, the more pressure there is on the end recipients for compliance, who are none other than the owners.
I will then restate a few points I have previously made in public statements that will assist in maintaining the building stock, such as:
-That the status of management committees be raised. And the way to do so is to improve and modernize commonhold building legislation.
-The establishment of a permanent maintenance fund should be formalized. Based on this, each owner will be required to pay an amount to be saved for maintenance purposes in addition to the annual common charges.
-To hear cases of minor disputes between management committees and owners, a special court or a body with quasi-judicial powers should be established. This body's decisions should be binding and enforceable and should be issued within a few weeks. A short period of compliance, for example, would be granted, or a special note (MEMO) would be added to the title deed. In addition, if the property is rented and the owner fails to pay the fees, the body should order the tenant to pay the fee to the management committee until the amount owed is paid.
-When a unit is sold or transferred to the complex, the Land Registry must obtain permission from the complex's management committee before the transfer can be completed. This will prevent owners from going into debt, selling and disappearing, and the new owner refusing to pay what the previous owner owed.
-Complex maintenance for structural and energy upgrades should be subject to a 5% VAT reduction because it is an investment with a direct impact on society's safety as well as the aesthetic and environmental upgrading of the built environment.
With the adoption of the Building Certificate of Structural Integrity, I am confident that the market will self-regulate, and it will only be a matter of time before clauses requiring the production of such a certificate are incorporated into both tenancy agreements and sales documents for used buildings, putting indirect and direct pressure on building maintenance.
[This article was translated from its Greek original and was first published in Kathimerini's printed Sunday edition]