Remodelled act construction laws introduce fresh building quality framework

On 20 August 2016, the Building and Construction Legislation Amendment Act 2016 (ACT) (Construction Legislation Amendment Act) commenced.

Many of the changes have delayed implementation, including the most significant reform — extension of statutory warranties to all apartments — which will commence on a date to be notified (but no later than 19 August 2017). Similarly, other major changes, such as standard form construction contracts and new stages of certification, will be implemented at a later date, under yet-to-be-drafted regulations.

Nevertheless, the new laws introduce a fresh building quality framework in the ACT, foreshadowing enhanced remedies for consumers and new obligations for builders, some which have already commenced.

The reforms follow the release by the ACT Government of its Improving the ACT Building Regulatory System — Discussion Paper (November 2015) and a Consultation Report earlier this year, in which a range of proposals aimed mainly at enhancing building quality and accountability were canvassed. The impetus appears to have been increasing complaints about building defects, particularly in multi-unit developments, described by Minister for Planning Mick Gentleman in the following terms:

‘In recent years, the quality and compliance of some building work has been questioned and there have been increasing concerns about the costs to the community — from building owners and industry practitioners to businesses that support building and construction — as a result of poor design, construction and management practices’.

The Construction Legislation Amendment Act amends the ACT’s principal pieces of building and licencing legislation, the Building Act 2004 (ACT) and the Construction Occupations (Licensing) Act 2004 (ACT) with the following changes:

  • extended statutory warranties to all residential buildings, regardless of their height (previously they were restricted to residential buildings of three storeys or less);
  • clarification of the statutory role of certifiers and regulation-making powers to define further stages of certification;
  • revised provisions relating to certificates of occupancy;
  • regulation-making powers to provide for standard-form contracts for residential construction;
  • a broad power to make guidelines and codes of practice about building work, including about building approval applications and building documentation, plans and specifications;
    more stringent obligations in relation to corporate / partnership licence nominees;
  • enhanced powers for the Construction Occupations Registrar, including wider criteria for the granting and renewal of licences, based on persons’ affiliation with other licences;
  • increased penalties for breaches of construction licensing legislation; and
  • enhanced powers for building inspectors, including search warrants and further investigative rights of entry.

These amendments follow changes in 2013 and 2014 of a similar nature, which saw an increase in penalties for major offences under the Building Act, the creation of a system of continual professional development for builders and a public register of information about construction licensees.

What should you do?

If you are uncertain about your new obligations under the Building Act and associated legislation, please contact Meyer Vandenberg Lawyers.

For more information contact: Alisa Taylor — Partner — Construction Project Delivery, Dispute Resolution Team
(02) 6239 4388

John Nikolić — Associate — Construction Project Delivery, Dispute Resolution Team
(02) 6239 4388