New rules requiring construction contractors to be licensed are in force, marking a long-awaited regulation of the sector. 

By January 2025 all contractors will need a license to build, demolish, and excavate buildings to operate. 

In the interim period, contractors will need “provisional approval” to continue working, the legal notice published on Tuesday says.

Those who apply for a license by the end of October can still operate pending approval from the Building and Construction Authority.

Contractors applying from November 1 must wait for the provisional licence to be issued before they can operate. 

By January 1, 2025, all contractors must be licensed.  

Applications will be open on Monday and can be filled out on the Building and Construction Authority’s website.  

What does the licencing require?

Under the new rules, contractors will need separate licenses for demolition, excavation and building works. They must demonstrate they are competent in each and undergo specialised training before acquiring the license and ensure that any work done has an insurance policy covering third-party damages and damages to workers.

The planning ministry had previously said applications would open June 1, but on May 31, the ministry said the legal notice needed the European Commission's approval.

The European Commission gave the government the go-ahead on Friday, after what is known as a proportionality test.

How will it be enforced?

The legal notice also establishes penalties for contractors working without a license.   

Penalties include a six-month prison sentence and a fine of €50,000.  

In the case of a continuing offence, a daily fine of €5,000 would apply while the violation continues.   

Recruitment of BCA enforcement officers has grown in the last six months and will continue growing with more recruitment, the ministry said.

"As the new legal notice comes into force, BCA officers will be tasked with inspecting whether contractors are licensed or not," the ministry said

Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi said the new rules represent a significant change to the construction industry.   

“Before anyone with equipment could work as a contractor,” he said. 

The industry requires more expertise than in the past, the minister said.  

“Whereas before, most construction works were on two or three-storey buildings, the reality now is that many projects are more complicated,” he said.

Why now?

The new legislation comes at a time when safety issues in the industry are increasingly under the spotlight.  

Between 2018 and 2022, 29 workers died on construction sites, with the latest construction victim being 26-year-old Mohammed Kasem Hashem Alkhateeb who died on Monday, four days after falling at a construction site near Rabat.  

The publication of the legal notice follows a huge public outpouring of support at a vigil for another construction site victim, Jean Paul Sofia, who died on government-leased land in December.

Shortly before the vigil began, Prime Minister Robert Abela bowed to public pressure and called a public inquiry into the young man’s death.   

The new rules have been a long time in gestation. 

In 2019 the government gave itself a deadline to set up a licencing regime for contractors by the end of the year.

Former parliamentary secretary for construction Chris Agius pledged to licence contractors over two years ago, in January 2021.  

He had said setting up the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) would lead to contractors licencing.  

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