De minimis lex non curat – The law does not concern itself with trifles (thanks to @paulmknally)

A little bit of Latin for a monday morning:

De minimis lex non curatThe law does not concern itself with trifles

But what does this mean in the context of architecture, planning and construction?

I’m called upon everyday to make decisions on whether something is compliant or non-compliant with planning/Building Regulations; whether it’s the height of a handrail or whether a specific part of the development is in compliance with its planning permission.

I wrote this POST a while back on the height of a balcony handrail on a TV Programme (Room to Improve) and the problem we have now with the implementation of S.I No. 9 of 2014 is:

• I as ‘Designer’ now certify that:

“I confirm that the plans, calculations, specifications, ancillary certificates and particulars … and which have been prepared exercising reasonable skill, care and diligence by me, and by other members of the design team and specialist designers whose design activities I have coordinated, have been prepared to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations insofar as they apply to the building or works concerned.”

i.e. I’ve drawn it in compliance with the Building Regs

• I then as ‘Assigned Certifier” certify that:

“…I undertake reasonable skill, care and diligence, to inspect the building or works and to coordinate the inspection work of others and to certify … compliance with the requirements of the Second Schedule in the Building Regulations”

i.e. I’ve inspected the works which are in compliance with the Building Regs.

• And the Builder then certifies that:

“…undertake to cooperate with the inspections…prepared by the Assigned Certifier and to take all reasonable steps so as to ensure that I shall certify the building or the works is in compliance with the requirements of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations…”

i.e I’ve built in accordance with the Building Regulations following the joint agreement over the inspections made between myself and the Assigned Certifier which is based on the drawings prepared by the ‘Designer’.

All good so far, but what is something isn’t EXACTLY in accordance with Planning or Building Control? Say if it’s really, really close?

Who makes the decision whether this ‘really, really close’ is De minimis lex non curat. So close that if it went to court that the judge would consider it a trifle and that ‘The law does not concern itself with trifles’.

This call (who without any third party inspections under the current poor legislation (S.I No. 9 of 2014)) comes back to the Assigned Certifier. It’s his/her decision alone whether in their opinion, that the matter is a trifle. And it’s the Assigned Certifier who takes all the responsibility (and naturally the liability) whether this opinion is correct.

Who decides therefore whether his opinion was correct, that it was a trifle? It’s decided when everyone is in court when there is a disagreement or following an accident. And it’s the judge who will decide your fate Assigned Certifier.

It be a lot easier if everyone built in accordance EXACTLY with the planning permission/Building Regulations and thereby stay out of court so that you don’t have to have the debate with the Judge on what is or what is not a trifle and thereby save everybody a lot of time and expense.

Special thanks (again to Paul McNally who found the reference to the Latin in David Keane’s ‘Building and the Law’

For more information on Trifles, CLICK HERE

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