Time for Building Actions
By Paul Cott, Senior Lawyer Lovegrove Smith & Cotton
It has for some time been uncertain in Victoria as to the time by which someone who has had building works conducted for them but which are defective, has to sue for a ‘building action.’
The uncertainty has been whether the relevant time period has been six years or ten years, and depending on which type of claim was made, different time periods could have applied.
Now as a result of the recent Victorian Court of Appeal decision (Brirek Industries Pty Ltd v McKenzie Group Consulting Pty Ltd) it is now the law in Victoria that a building owner has ten years in actions in both negligence and breach of contract to sue for defective works. That is, ten years from the date of the issue of the occupancy permit for the property.
Importantly, however, the same time period applies whether or when the damage becomes apparent to an owner. So if, as is common, a property is defectively built but those defects are not known until later, the time period has been ticking away and so you may not have much time left within which to sue. Time periods can sometimes be extended but that is a very complex and difficult issue that is best left for another day.
If you are unsure of your rights in this complex area, please seek advice.