The NSW Government is seeking to increase stakeholder confidence in the building industry. They are creating a new foundation for construction by looking at how to improve laws, better protect consumers and support workers. Further to existing legislation, the laudable intent is to improve safety, accountability and transparency ensuring high-quality design, construction and maintenance, while modernising and simplifying building legislation.
Whether you are a member of the public or work in building and construction, the Government wants to hear from you if you have an opinion on the building industry. To have your say on reforming building laws in NSW, there is an all-in-one survey which is recommended. This survey allows you to skip through topics to the ones that interest you. Alternatively, if you are only interested in a single topic area, you can complete a single topic survey. Both are accessible via this link: https://www.haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/reforming-building-laws
The consultation process is open until Friday 25 November 2022 and we are advocating for as many people as possible to take part. The seven topics open for potential reform are;
- Making home building fairer and easier: looking at consumer protections, strata building bonds and inspections
- Supplying and using safer building products: improving accountability for the quality and safety of building products
- Regulating prefabricated and manufactured homes: increasing protections for consumers
- Strengthening building compliance and enforcement: bringing enforcement powers under a single Act, including new strata and community land powers
- Licensing commercial and home building work: owner-builder regulation and improving supervision
- Upskilling the building and construction industry: training and education requirements for designers and builders
- Securing prompt and fair payment for building work: helping workers get paid more quickly and avoid disputes
Where are we currently?
Under the NSW Building Commissioner, two laws were introduced to immediately restore public confidence in the NSW building industry by stopping shonky builders and developers. These changes marked the start of a new era in the design and construction of buildings in NSW. The laws were introduced as the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2019 (DBP) and the Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance & Enforcement Powers) Act 2020 (RAB).
Anyone entering the housing property market could now have peace of mind that their home would be designed and built in compliance with the National Construction Code. The Building Commissioner, together with the Better Regulation Division would lead the implementation of the laws and would focus on investigation and audit strategies. The key changes brought by the new laws were staged as follows;
- 10th June 2020, owners of buildings with defects would benefit from the statutory duty of care that applies to new buildings, and existing buildings where an economic loss first became apparent in the previous 10 years
- 1st September 2020 the Building Commissioner had the powers to stop an Occupation Certificate from being issued, order developers to rectify defective buildings, and issue stop work orders (the latter has made the news recently regarding Coronation Property Group)
- 1st July 2021, there would be compulsory registration for practitioners involved in design and building work, such as building surveyors and professional engineers
These obligations currently apply to Class 2 buildings and buildings including a Class 2 component.
Here’s what we think
There are now three major legislation changes in the pipeline concerning an all-encompassing Building Act (what could be a ‘one ring to bind them all’ moment), Fire Safety and an extension of Building Classes under the DBP Act. With the legislation changes out for comment, but possibly due for enactment in short order (likely November 2022), now is the opportunity to ‘speak or forever hold your peace’. The proposed changes are hugely significant and far-reaching, for example Classes 3 and 9c will be in the DBP extension. We will discuss the ramifications in detail under a separate opinion piece, but our belief is that any intent seeking to bring clarity, integrity and honesty to the construction industry will in the long term be to everyone’s benefit. There will likely be some pain experienced by all concerned, which is why everyone with an interest should participate in the consultation process via the survey.