Roofer legal issues

Roofer fixing lead tiles on slanted roofThere is no legislation that applies specifically to roofers. However, as a business person engaging in activities that are potentially hazardous there is certain legislation that you should be aware of. Health and safety legislation in particular is very important in the roofing industry.

The following is an outline of some of the areas which may well be relevant to you. The list is not intended to be exhaustive.

What licences does a roofer need?

There are no specific licences that you will need to work as a roofer, so if your business activities are going to fall within the usual range of services offered by this type of business you may not need to do anything further.

If you are going to transport building waste (which is classified as a controlled waste), you will need a certificate of registration as an 'upper tier' waste carrier (or just waste carrier in Scotland). This is issued by the Environment Agency in England, Natural Resources Wales, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in Scotland. It currently costs about £155 for the initial registration fee and a further renewal fee of about £105 every three years (a bit more in Scotland, a bit less in Northern Ireland). Note that a single licence is issued to your business covering all of your waste transporting vehicles.

If you intend to do any work involving asbestos (this might include removing old roofing sheets, for example) you may need a licence from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Asbestos Licensing Unit - or from the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI). There is a charge for this licence. In practice, you'll probably call in a licensed specialist to deal with any asbestos you come across.

Skips placed on a public highway require a Skip Permit from the local authority. Certain conditions may be attached to the licence. Normally the skip hire company will arrange the necessary licences, but it is worth making certain of this.

Before erecting a scaffold on or over a public highway, you are obliged by law to obtain a permit from your local highways authority. Some local authorities also require you to obtain a scaffolding permit before putting up a scaffold in a public place. If you use a specialist scaffolder, they will often take responsibility for arranging any scaffolding permits needed. For more information, contact your local authority planning department or environmental health department.

If you offer an insurance backed warranty - even if you make no extra charge for this - then you may be covered by general insurance legislation administered by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Businesses whose activities are covered by the legislation need to be either directly authorised by the FCA or an 'appointed representative' of a principal FCA authorised insurer.

Voluntary certification

If you want to demonstrate to your customers that your business follows high standards of quality and professionalism then you could sign up to a voluntary quality scheme. Various schemes are run by organisations like trade associations and the government. An example is TrustMark, a government-backed quality scheme for the whole of the construction industry, including roofers.

The Buy with Confidence - Trading Standards Approved scheme vets and approves businesses that operate in a fair an honest way, helping would-be customers to find a business that they can trust. A growing number of local authorities participate in the scheme. You can find out more and check whether your local authority has signed up on the Buy with Confidence website.

Competent Roofer Scheme for Building Regulations self-certification

Some of the work you do is likely to be covered by Building Regulations. If you want to be able to sign off your work for Building Regulations compliance instead of getting it inspected you will need to join the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) Competent Roofer scheme.

There is a one-off joining fee and an annual membership fee. There is also a small fee payable for each compliance certificate you issue, although you can of course pass this on to your customers.

You can find out more about this government-approved scheme on the Competent Roofer website.

Building Regulations

This is a general term for different pieces of legislation in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The work that you do must comply with local Building Regulations - your local authority building inspectorate will be able to give you more information. Details of The Building Regulations are available from the Planning Portal website. More information about the Building Regulations in Northern Ireland is available on the Department of Finance website.

Substantial roofing work (normally 50% plus of the roof area refurbished/replaced) done to domestic properties must comply with regulations covering insulation performance. These are set out in Document L of the Building Regulations. Building Regulations cover other aspects of roofing too, such as structural strength and load-bearing ability.

Planning rules

Most or all of the work undertaken by a roofer is unlikely to need planning permission. However, permission may be needed in certain situations, for example where the height of the roof is raised. Listed buildings will require listed building consent for any change in the roof covering type, or for other roof works which change the appearance and/or structure of the building. It is generally the responsibility of the building owner to obtain permission, but it may be helpful to have an understanding of the main planning rules which apply.

Health & safety, fire

Roofing is potentially a very hazardous activity and it is very important that you keep up to date with health and safety regulations.

The Work at Height Regulations cover all work done at height where there is a risk of falling that could cause personal injury. The Regulations place very specific duties on both employers and self-employed workers to make sure that all necessary safety precautions are taken when people are working at or above a certain height. Duties include:

  • assessing all risks
  • planning and organising all work at height properly
  • making sure all people involved are competent and all equipment used is safe and appropriate

Other key areas where health and safety regulations affect your business, particularly if you employ staff, include:

  • use of electrical equipment (power tools and so on)
  • access to first aid equipment
  • adequate provision and use of protective clothing and equipment
  • reporting of any accidents at work

You must comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include:

Recruitment and employment contracts

Pay and pensions

Working time: hours, leave, flexible working

Employment policies

Sickness and sick pay

Maternity, paternity and adoption

Discrimination

Managing home workers, remote workers, lone workers

Discipline and grievance

Dismissals and redundancies

Employment tribunals

Asbestos

Any work that you do which might lead to exposure to asbestos is covered by the Control of Asbestos Regulations. For example, you might be asked to remove and replace an old sheet asbestos roof. Under these Regulations, you may need a licence from the HSE or the HSENI if you intend to carry out work involving asbestos. Whether the work you do is licensable or not, you must always comply with all relevant asbestos safety legislation when asbestos material might be present on site.

The environment

The Environmental Protection Act and regulations made under it apply to pollution prevention and the disposal of building and demolition waste. Special provision is made for hazardous waste products, for example old asbestos sheets or some of the materials used in fibreglass flat roofing. More information about environmental management is available from the Gov.uk website.

Fair trading

Special consumer protection regulations require all traders to act honestly and fairly towards their customers. It goes without saying that you shouldn't make claims that aren't true, or quote prices that turn out to be wildly inaccurate. There's more information about consumer protection and fair trading legislation on the Gov.uk website.

Illegal workers

As an employer it's your responsibility to check that someone you take on is entitled to work in the UK. There are fines for employers who employ illegal workers because they've failed to make the necessary checks.

Insurance for a roofer

When you start up in business you will need insurance cover. Contact an insurer and explain how your business will operate. They will then be able to recommend what cover you should have. This might include:

  • employer's liability
  • public liability
  • contractor's liability/contractor's all risks
  • unfixed materials, plant and equipment on site
  • combined property
  • business interruption
  • motor insurance (for business vehicles)
  • personal cover - accident and injury, loss of earnings and so on

When taking out personal and employer's liability cover it is particularly important to give precise details of the types of activity that you and your staff will be engaging in. Be prepared to answer questions about the height at which you will be working, the type of equipment you will be using and so on.

Some professional associations and 'approved contractor' schemes require all participating businesses to have a minimum level of public liability insurance, for example £2 million.

Business insurance policies for construction firms - particularly roofers - can be very costly and it would be a good idea to get some quotes at an early stage in your planning. Shop around to obtain the best cover at the most affordable price.

The National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) offers specialist business insurance packages tailored to the roofing industry exclusively to its members. The NFRC and several other trade associations also offer insurance-backed warranty schemes for qualifying members.

The Confederation of Roofing Contractors (CORC) has negotiated preferential rates on business insurance cover for its members, and their preferred insurer also offers insurance-backed guarantees.

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