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Builder Beware!

Hamish Thomas provides a high level overview of the recent changes and proposed changes to Victoria's building legislation and what that means for you.

With the passing of the Building Legislation Amendment (Consumer Protection) Act 2016 (Vic) earlier this year, the Victorian Government has tightened the screws for those in the building industry and given a strong indication of an appetite for more. Consumers and the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) are set to benefit under the suite of changes with new protections and new powers rolling out over the next 12 months.

While Victoria has long been aware of the benefits of strong regulatory framework in the building industry, the recent and proposed changes highlight the importance of consumer confidence and the need for streamlined dispute resolution mechanisms. To assist you to navigate the current and incoming changes, we have highlighted some key issues to look out for;

Immediate changes from 4 July 2016

  • “Building Surveyors, conflicts of interest & related persons: Changes to the Building Act have restricted the scope for Building Surveyors to act where they or a “related person” have a conflict of interest. Related Person functions as a broad net here capturing partners, fellow directors, body corporates and employer/employees.
  • “Non-compliant work in the spotlight”: The VBA and building surveyors head the list of authorised persons who may now give oral and written directions to a builder to fix non-compliant works and/or stop further works. With the standard time frame for compliance being 7 days and fines for non-compliance with written directions attracting maximum penalties of up to $77,730, builders need to give immediate attention to any directions.
  • “Owner-builder audits”: The VBA now has wider powers to commence investigations into works undertaken by owner-builders in the wake of concern that builders have been using the less onerous provisions that apply to owner-builders under the Building Act.

Changes on the horizon

  • “Shake-up for dispute resolution”: Scheduled between now and July 2017, the Building Practitioners Board will be dismantled with its powers absorbed by the VBA and we will see building disputes funnelled first through the new Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) prior to being able to apply to VCAT. DBDRV is set to function as a one-stop-shop for all domestic building disputes and will have significant powers at its disposal.
  • “Builder Registrations”: The registration period for building practitioners is set to be shortened to 5 years and builders will now be subject to a “fit and proper person” test.

If you are in the building industry and require further information on any of the changes discussed above, please contact Hamish Thomas.

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