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June 2012

Sarah Symon Realsure Director

The recent changes in the Building Act along with those likely to be implemented in Bill (No 4) will have far-reaching consequences for many builders in the residential construction sector.

The changes are all designed to improve the efficiency and productivity of the industry, reinforce incentives to upskill and increase consumer confidence in the sector.  The flip side is that the changes in the Building Act include some pretty hefty financial penalties for those who don’t follow the rules. The responsibilities of the builder and Licensed Building Practitioners (LBPs) are clearly set out, along with some clear directives around the expectations of the building work and documentation required to support the building work.

Failure to carry out the building work correctly or provide accurate and true documentation at the required stages can result in hefty financial penalties from $2000 to $200,000 along with possible suspension or loss of registration for badly performing LBPs. Two other far-reaching changes are the proposed 12-month warranty period and the Memorandum of Building Work identifying the LBPs and work undertaken.   The 12-month warranty period is intended to be a requirement for the building contractor to stand behind their work and that of their sub-contractors.

The identification of the LBPs is intended to assist subsequent owners to identify and hold accountable the original contractor, if applicable. Concise, well-documented paper trails will be required; however, quality assurance will be paramount. Sarah Symon, Manager of Building Surveying Group Realsure, advises Quality Tracker R is an independent quality assurance programme that monitors the build through key stages providing the necessary quality assurance package for builders. Realsure has been heavily involved in the development of the property inspection industry Standard and Accreditation over the past decade and is an ISO registered group.  Symon says: “We began to develop this process several years ago following several approaches from some builders and building companies recognising a weakness in their process.  In our daily property inspection role, we also constantly see issues with homes, often as a result of poor building work or detailing.

“Quality Tracker is working really well for our clients.  At every inspection, we find a good builder or project manager is just not picking up all the issues.  Using an independent set of trained surveying eyes is proving invaluable.  While the builder can be a bit miffed to start with, they quickly recognise that picking up the defects as they build is proving to be the quickest and least expensive time to do it. “Generally we find one exposure to the QT programme creates converts.  Not only does the programme allow the builder to prove their quality of work, but they have also documented evidence of the process. This will become invaluable for the 12-month warranty period and more so for the future given the new requirement to declare the work they have done in the memorandum of works.”

The changes to the Building Act are necessary to improve the construction sector, and while they come with the potential for hefty financial penalties, they also provide the guidance and incentive to build it right the first time.