A regime leading to the eventual licencing of building contractors will kick off on June 1, according to a government plan presented for public consultation on Monday.

Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi said the proposed licencing scheme will improve the quality of the construction sector and lead to better enforcement.

According to the plan, applications for a license will open on 1 June and close on October 31. But the final cut-off date for all contractors to be licensed has been set at January 1, 2025.

The public consultation period will run until April 21.

A spate of construction deaths over the past years has fuelled demands for reforms to the sector. Promises about introducing a licencing scheme date back to 2019.  

According to the plan, applicants will have to have insurance policies in place, safeguarding protecting both third parties and their employees.

Contractors who apply by the October 31 deadline will need provisional clearance from the building regulator, the Building and Construction Authority, to continue working until their license application is approved.

The minister stressed that the new regime cannot be imposed on the sector overnight.

Zrinzo Azzopardi said that prior to the final cut-off date, the building regulator will be able to suspend license applications if any violations are found, meaning that the contractor in question will not be able to carry out any works.

Three separate licences planned

The regime will see three separate licenses for demolition, excavation and building works.

Contractors will be able to apply for all three licenses.

Applicants have to be over 18 and must not be bankrupt.

The license obliges contractors to carry out works in accordance with instructions from an architect, in compliance with the method statement and any other regulations issued by the Building and Construction Authority.

Applicants must demonstrate experience in their relevant lines of work, and have “adequate knowledge” of health and safety rules.

Those seeking a demolition and excavation licence will need to have three years of experience in the field, confirmed by two architects. Those who have an MQF Level 4 qualification in the sector only require two years of experience.

Those seeking a building licence must be licenced as masons. Companies applying for a licence must employ a licenced mason and have at least three years of experience. 

The licencing regime has been over four years in the making, with then minister Ian Borg having promised licencing of contractors in 2019.

In a reaction soon after the announcement, the construction lobby welcomed the new regime. 

The Malta Developers' Association called on the building regulator to be "efficient" in processing license applications. 

 It said contractors who fail to obtain a license will no longer be welcomed as members, and any contractors who have their license revoked due to gross negligence will automatically be dismissed.

Timelines 

All contractors will start applying for a license from June 1, 2013

Contractors have until October 31, 2023 to submit their application. Those who fail to apply by that date will no longer be allowed to operate. 

To operate during the application and processing period, a contractor must receive provisional clearance from the regulator. 

Those who apply after June 1, 2024 have until 1 January 2025 to obtain their license.

All the obligations linked to the licence shall be enforced from November 1, 2023

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