Impending obligations for consultants working in Victoria’s building and construction industry

Legislative changes to the Building Act 1993 (Vic) (the Act) will create new requirements for building practitioners and broaden the scope of professionals that fall within the scope of the definition of “building practitioner”.

The amendments take effect 1 February 2024 and embody the first implementation of the Building System Review. This was based on a series of reports to government by an Expert Panel on Building Reform. The Stage 1 report prioritised practitioner registration, building approvals, regulatory oversight, and consumer protection.

We highlight the key updates to the Act below:

Introduction of a Building Monitor
The amendments introduce a ‘Building Monitor’ appointed by government to:
  • Identify systemic issues affecting consumers of building work and advocating for their interests.

  • To create a central point for the identification of critical and systemic issues that affect domestic building affected parties.

  • Empower consumers by promoting awareness of systemic issues that relate to the building industry, the plumbing industry and building system regulators with options to address issues.

The Building Monitor will make recommendations to for improvement to the regulation of the industry broadly together with the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) to identify and implement reform.

Responses to such recommendations must be provided to the Building Monitor by all persons or bodies who are the subject of the recommendations (such as local councils) and must respond to the recommendations made in each annual report.

Establishment of State Building Surveyor

Determinations of the State Building Surveyor – which relate to requirements and standards for building and plumbing – will now be binding. This means that building and plumbing practitioners will need to ensure that they comply with these determinations or risk facing disciplinary action for failing to do so.

Updated definition of building practitioner
Currently the definition of building practitioner includes:
  1. Building surveyor

  2. Building inspector

  3. Quantity surveyor

  4. Draftsperson

  5. Builder

  6. A person who erects or supervises the erection of temporary structures

  7. A person responsible for a building project or any stage of a building project and who belongs to a class or category of people prescribed to be building practitioners.
It is now being refreshed as follows:
  1. Include building consultant,

  2. Replace (7) above with project manager;

  3. Replace (4) above with building designer; and

  4. Include site supervisor.

Expansion of categories required to be ‘registered’

Site Supervisor and Building Consultant will now need to be registered building practitioners with the Victorian Building Authority (VBA). Registration necessitates the holding of domestic building insurance (formerly builders warranty insurance). The VBA registers individual builders, not businesses and companies.

Implementation of Building Manual for new builds

A draft building manual (a collection of all key information regarding construction, maintenance, and design of a building) is to be submitted to the relevant building surveyor initially. Following same it shall be provided to the owner or owners’ corporation once accepted and at the time of occupancy.

It will become an offence to “knowingly or recklessly”, provide false or misleading information in a building manual. Requirements of what is to be contained in the building manual will depend on the class of building.

There will also be a requirement for relevant building surveyors to provide an information statement to owners when issuing the building permit. Whilst the details regarding information statements are yet to be finalised, they have been referred to as documents which clearly detail the roles and responsibilities of the relevant building surveyor.

The ready availability of comprehensive documentation may also assist owners and Owners Corporations to identify building defects early in the building’s life and have them addressed. The owner or owners’ corporation will be required to keep the manual and update it.

Key takeaways
  • It is vital that practitioners caught by the new amendments carefully consider their roles and responsibilities prior to commencement of the Act. Failing to do so may give rise to disciplinary action and claims exposure.

  • Building professionals who now fall within the scope of the Act should review their insurance policies and contracts for building work prior to commencement of the Act. In doing so they must ensure that their insurance coverage is appropriate and covers the new duties being imposed by the Act.

  • Building surveyors and certifiers:
    • Should take steps to familiarise themselves with the requirements of the Act particularly the contents and information that forms part of building manuals to ensure compliance with the Act,
    • Consideration should be given to procurement of Statutory Liability insurance to cover potential fines and penalties arising out of the preparation/updating of building manuals with knowingly or recklessly false or misleading information.

Should you wish to discuss the Act and its implications on your insurance cover, please contact an advisor at Bellrock.

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