Who is liable in case of a collapsed building?

A Twelve Year jail sentence awaits those who contravene the Building laws

In the recent past the public and the media has been awashed with cases of collapsing buildings mainly in Kampala, Wakiso Mpigi and Jinja.  Taking Makindye Division in Kampala as a case study, two buildings have collapsed in the last five months with the most recent incident happening in Kelezia Zone last month.

The Compliance and Monitoring Task force comprising of Architects, Engineers and a Legal Officer of the National Building Review Board has found out that most of these accidents are due to poor workmanship and construction technology, inadequate architectural and structural engineering design, engagement of inexperienced and unqualified contractors.

Other causes include alteration of the design during construction without adequate engineering studies, failure to adequately monitor and inspect building construction, disregard of the prevailing laws, lack of professionals on the building team to inspect the works and use of inferior and poor quality materials among others.

But who is liable in case of these accidents?

The Building Control Act, 2013 answers this question. Section 45 of the Act places liability to any person whose negligence, commission or omission causes or leads to the occurrence of an accident on a building construction site, which results in the injury or death of another person, or the destruction of property.

Such a person commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred eighty eight currency points (shs 5,600,000) or to imprisonment not exceeding 12 years or both.

Section 45(2) of the same Act describes acts that make one liable as; breach of contract, failure to comply with stipulated building procedures and standards, professional negligence, failure to take out insurance for the workers and failure to comply with this Act and regulations made under this Act.

In case of a building related accident therefore, the NBRB shall commission teams to investigate each accident in order to establish liability in accordance with Building Control Regulations, 2020, Reg. 41 (2) (e).

Non-Complaint Professionals

The Minister with the advise of National Building Review Board issued the Building Regulations, 2020 which impose penalties in respect of any contraventions of the law. Regulation 7 empowers an owner of a building to report to a professional body for disciplinary action or notify the relevant Building Committee and NBRB for appropriate action against any professional (Architect, Engineer, surveyor) who fails to perform his or her duty as required by law under the employment of the owner.


General offences and Penalties.

The general offences and penalties deal with developers and ordinary persons who go against the law. Their actions may include failure to comply with the terms of a notice or conditions issued under the Regulations, deviation from the approved plan or diagram without approval of the Building Committee, erection of building in contravention of the regulations and hindrance or obstruction of a Building Control Officer or any person authorised by the Building Committee in the performance of his or her duties.

Other criminal acts may include submission a certificate, which is substantially false, incorrect or fraudulent, failure to take out worker’s insurance as required by the Workers Compensation Act, 2006, being the owner of a building, occupies, uses or permits the occupation or use of a building without an occupation permit, cause any building to be altered or used for a purpose other than the purpose shown on the approved plans of the building and use a building for a purpose, which causes a change in the class of occupancy.

Any person who commits these offenses upon conviction is liable to a fine not exceeding forty-eight currency points (Shs 960,000) or imprisonment not exceeding two years or both.

In case of a continuing contravention, an additional fine not exceeding five currency points for each day during which the contravention continues. A person may also proceed under the Worker’s Compensation Act, 2006 against a person convicted under the regulations where his or her actions result in the injury or death of a person.

The above insights clearly show that all players that is; the professionals, developers and ordinary citizens must be accountable for their actions or inactions.