- What is Raising the Bar?
In response to industry’s continued desire to enhance professionalism in the residential construction sector, the Province through the Homeowner Protection Office (HPO) established a collaborative process with the residential construction industry to develop a new system of prescribed qualifications for licensees under the Homeowner Protection Act. An industry task group (The Main Task Group) was charged with developing recommendations for a new system of qualifications for licensees which includes core competencies for different categories of licences, educational benchmarks, training programs and professional development requirements.
The Main Task Group, in October 2008, recommended creating an independent body for the purpose of assisting government with the implementation and on-going review of prescribed qualifications required for licensed builders who build or sell 1-4 unit residential buildings. In addition, this organization would play a role in the delivery of services to builders as they establish their personal qualifications. As a result, the Professional Builders’ Institute of British Columbia (PBIBC) was created in the fall of 2010.
- Why are we raising the bar of professionalism in the residential construction sector?
Given the need to establish basic consumer protections for buyers of new homes in British Columbia, the Homeowner Protection Act regulations establishing requirements for residential builder licensing and mandatory third-party home warranty insurance for new home construction came into force in 1999.
It was always anticipated that the Province would take further steps to protect consumers and professionalize the residential construction industry through the introduction of prescribed education and training qualifications as a condition of licensing. In collaboration with industry, the Province has continually moved toward this next step.
A 2005 survey of all licensed residential builders, performed by an independent research firm, indicated that 72% of builders agree that they would like to see minimum education or training benchmarks introduced as a requirement for licensing.
- What is the HPO and what are its responsibilities?
The Homeowner Protection Act’s (“Act”) mandate is to help bring about improvements in the quality of residential construction and increase consumer protection for buyers of new homes.
The Homeowner Protection Office is a branch of BC Housing, an agency of the provincial government which, under the Act, is responsible for:
- licensing residential builders (including developers) and building envelope renovators
- administering Owner Builder Authorizations
- ensuring that all new homes are covered by policies of home warranty insurance or an applicable exemption
- monitoring the performance of the third-party home warranty insurance system provided by the private sector, and research and education benefiting the residential construction sector and buyers of new homes in B.C.
The HPO’s licensing duties include: new licences, license renewals, license conditions, the suspension and cancellation of licences, and an internal appeals process.
- Why was the PBIBC created?
The Professional Builders’ Institute of British Columbia (PBIBC) was formed in anticipation of steps being taken to develop a system of prescribed education, training and experience benchmarks as a condition of obtaining and maintaining a residential builder licence in British Columbia. The PBIBC was established to:
- work with the HPO to create processes in order to implement the proposed new “prescribed qualifications” for licensing
- work with the HPO to establish “benchmarks” that provide detail to the “prescribed qualifications” provide a qualification process to education and training providers who wish to offer builders programs that will meet the benchmarks”
- provide and administer a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) certification that will meet the proposed requirements for builders to renew their HPO licence
- provide and administer a Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) program for new applicants seeking to establish their credentials through prior experience and education
- How is the PBIBC funded?
The PBIBC received start-up funds from the HPO, a branch of BC Housing during the fiscal year 2010-2011.Subsequent funding has been agreed to until April 2012. The PBIBC was created under the understanding that it eventually would become self-funding.
- How is the PBIBC different from CHBA, BCCA and other industry associations?
CHBA, BCCA and other such organizations are associations which provide industry support and services to improve business effectiveness and the knowledge of its paid members. Services for members can include: education and training, events, government relations, employee benefit plans, electronic construction bidding services, job postings, standards of practice and accreditation within its own associations. Membership can include any organization or individual with an interest in the B.C.’s construction industry, including suppliers and government entities. These associations may also have related regional and national organizations.
The PBIBC is an independent body established under the BC Society Act to represent the industry’s interests and expertise, working with the HPO in implementing prescribed qualifications of licensees. This includes the qualification of providers of benchmark education programs that will count toward the anticipated minimum education and training requirements needed to obtain and maintain a residential builder licence in British Columbia. As a qualification body, the PBIBC does not provide education and training, but it will review and qualify education and training programs, including those submitted by industry associations. The PBIBC collaborates on the establishment of “benchmarks” for the prescribed qualifications and the details of the Continuing Professional Development Program.
- Who must be licensed as a residential builder in B.C.?
A residential builder (as defined in the Homeowner Protection Act) is a person who engages in, arranges for or manages all or substantially all of the construction of a new home or agrees to do any of those things, and includes a developer and a general contractor.
- What are the current requirements for residential licensing in B.C.?
Residential builders must be licensed by the Homeowner Protection Office, a branch of BC Housing, in order to obtain a building permit for new home construction or to obtain an applicable exemption. In geographic areas where building permits are not required, licensing is required prior to the commencement of new home construction.
Currently the major requirement for residential builder licensing is acceptance with a home warranty insurance provider.
- How does the PBIBC assessment process differ from an HPO licence?
Residential builders are required under the Homeowner Protection Act and regulations to obtain a residential builder licence with the Homeowner Protection Office in order to obtain a building permit or commence construction of new homes built for sale in British Columbia.
The PBIBC, in collaboration with the HPO, will establish “benchmarks” for the education, training and experience needed by a new applicant to satisfy the “prescribed qualifications.” Qualification from the PBIBC will allow organizations offering education and training for the residential construction industry to have their courses and programs count toward requirements for minimum qualifications for licensed residential builders.
Once the anticipated requirements for minimum qualifications are set by government, the assessment service provided by the PBIBC will provide a builder with the required written proof that they have successfully achieved the education, training and experience needed to obtain and maintain a residential builder licence in the province of British Columbia. This assessment will form part of the application for a Homeowner Protection Office residential builder licence.
It is also proposed that, as a condition of renewing a licence, residential builders will successfully complete an annual program of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), the details of which are still to be determined in collaboration with industry. It is intended that the PBIBC will provide assistance and assess applicants for the CPD requirement.
- Who will set the prescribed qualifications required for licensed residential builders?
The Province, through a Homeowner Protection Act regulation, will set any changes to the requirements for residential builder licensing.
- Who will be affected by the anticipated introduction of minimum qualifications as a condition of licensing?
Licensed residential builders wanting to build new small residential buildings in the Province of British Columbia will likely be subject to the anticipated minimum qualification requirements. Currently there are over 5,000 licensed residential builders in the province –the majority of which build single family dwellings and small residential buildings under Part 9 of the BC Building Code.
- Will all existing builders have to meet the new qualifications?
The Main Task Group, which developed the recommendations for minimum qualifications for consideration by government, has recommended that builders of 1-4 new homes per building, that hold a valid residential builder licence with the Homeowner Protection Office at the time the anticipated regulations for minimum qualifications come into force, are grandfathered into the education and training requirements for obtaining a NEW licence. However, it was also recommended that the same builders will have to meet continuing professional development requirements to ensure that their education and training keeps up with industry standards and does not lag behind new entrants.
- If existing builders don’t have to meet the new qualifications, how will they be held accountable?
It is anticipated that all licensed residential builders constructing homes of 1-4 units per building will have to meet future professional development requirements to ensure that their education and training keeps up with industry standards. These builders will be deemed to be qualified instead of having to provide evidence of education and training. However, if the HPO receives evidence indicating that the builder is not competent in one or more of the prescribed qualification areas, renewal of the builder’s licence may be subject to additional conditions.
- What will be the new requirements for residential builders in B.C.?
The exact education and training requirements will be known when the anticipated Homeowner Protection Act regulations are passed by cabinet.
- When will the anticipated new requirements for licensed residential builders take effect?
The anticipated Homeowner Protection Act regulations will provide for appropriate lead time before the new licence requirements come into force. This lead time will allow licensed residential builders and new entrants to be advised of the new requirements and to prepare for any education and training that might be necessary to obtain and maintain a licence in the future.
- Who will provide the education and training once minimum qualifications are introduced?
Specific education and training courses for the purpose of obtaining and maintaining a residential builder licence will be provided by organizations qualified by the PBIBC.
- How will the industry know what the residential builder licensing requirements are once the anticipated Homeowner Protection Act regulations are passed by cabinet?
The Homeowner Protection Office keeps in regular contact with its licensed residential builders and other industry stakeholders in the province. Any changes to the Homeowner Protection Act regulations regarding the requirements for obtaining and maintaining a residential builder licence will be communicated by mail to each licensed residential builder. Communications to interested parties will also include email blasts, newsletters, postings on the HPO website, announcements at HPO events, coverage in trade publications, etc. The anticipated regulations for minimum qualifications will provide for appropriate lead time before the requirements come into force.
- Will there be any change in requirements for an Owner Builder Authorization?
The requirements for an Owner Builder Authorization are currently being reviewed by the HPO in collaboration with the PBIBC.