What is a Builder?
By Serge Mendis & David Thomas, Lovegrove Solicitors, Construction & Commercial Lawyers
It used to be that when you needed a builder, all you had to do was turn to “B” in the Yellow Pages. You would then call one up, and very soon an instantly recognisable fellow would be walking around the building site wearing a tool belt.
So, what has changed in the 21st century?
Today, the building industry, and therefore today’s builders are subject to extensive legislation and regulations, such as the Building Act 1993 (Victoria), the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Victoria) and the Building Regulations 2006 (Victoria). These have made this matter of who and what is a builder a more clouded issue than simply looking for the colloquial stereotype.
Owners need to be cognizant in today’s regulated and commercial environment of the importance of engaging a properly registered builder. Most work that an owner might seek to have carried out on their property would need to be undertaken by a registered builder in order to be covered by the protective umbrella of the relevant legislation. This can range from simple alterations, renovations, and major domestic building works such as erecting houses and apartments. The benefits to an owner of engaging a registered builder are numerous and will be further discussed throughout this article.
So, who is a Builder when it comes to domestic building?
- Carries out domestic building work; or
- Manages or arranges the carrying out of domestic building work;
- Intends to carry out, or to manage or arrange the carrying out
of, domestic building work.
“Domestic building work” itself is defined in the Act as being any work involving or associated with the erection or construction of a home, or the renovation, alteration, repair, extension or improvement of a home. This can also include landscaping, swimming pools and other external work, and also preparatory work including demolition and the preparation of plans and specifications.
So, as one can see, the definition of who is a builder has been significantly expanded by legislation. A domestic builder does not have to be the one with a hammer in hand; they can be the person managing the building work. This could mean that they are actually a considerable distance away from the site and could still fall within the ambit of a ‘Builder’ under the legislation.
What kind of Builder should I engage for domestic building work?
It is important that you engage a registered building practitioner. The benefit of this is that you are engaging an experienced professional who is both qualified, knowledgeable, registered with the Building Practitioners Board and will also comply with obtaining the requisite insurance for domestic building works.
Who can become a registered Building Practitioner?
The Building Regulations 2006 outline the various categories and classes of building practitioners. These include the following categories and classes;
- Building surveyor
- Building inspector (Unlimited, Limited)
- Engineer (Mechanical, Civil, Electrical or Fire Safety)
- Building Inspector (Unlimited, Limited)
- Quantity Surveyor
- Draftsperson (Building design – architectural, interior,
- Builder (Commercial – Limited, Unlimited)
- Builder (Domestic – Unlimited, Limited)
- Builder Manager
- Builder (Demolisher – low/medium rise buildings)
- Erector or Supervisor (temporary structures – Class 1 and
Registered Building Practitioners can also have professional associations with bodies such as the Housing Industry Association or Master Builders Australia. Association with these bodies allows the builder access to a number of benefits including training courses, access to experts including referral to specialist legal advice, information exchange with peers and business development ideas. All of these benefits can streamline a builder into becoming more efficient and therefore saving you time and money as a result.
What do I do if I have a dispute with a Registered Builder?
If you have engaged a Registered Builder and a dispute arises, the Building Commission has a number of services available to the consumer which may assist in the resolution of disputes. These include;
- Building Advice and Concilliation Victoria which provides free
advice and assistance to resolve domestic building disputes;
- You can lodge a complaint against a Builder through the Building Commission which, if warranted may lead to an investigation and the matter being referred to the Building Practitioners Board;
- For domestic building disputes you will have the right to serve notices under the contract in certain circumstances; and
- Domestic building disputes can be referred to VCAT by application of one of the parties where you will initially have a mediation to try to settle the dispute.