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Volume 1 – The Beginning of the dream…


Most people don’t have a clue about building or don’t know what their rights and obligations are  when they enter into a Domestic Building Contract.

So we can assist you with understanding your rights, obligations ,  procedures, laws and options available to you when building we need to make sure your understand what needs to happen from the beginning of your project.


We are all aware that the first phase of your project involves designing your home. It is therefore very important that you ensure that the design provides you with the building you have hoped for at completion. Drawings, plans, specifications, technical requirements all need to be prepared for the purposes of obtaining your building permit and assisting your builder with the construction of your home so that tat completion you have your dream home ( or renovation) as you hoped for.

In most cases it is the owners obligation to ensure that the correct working plans, drawings, specifications, etc are provided to the builder. If you have not provided the builder with a complete set of drawings, plans etc, to be used for the purposes of building, the builder may claim against you should you make a claim for defective works.


The design or pre-construction phrase of your home usually comprises of the following steps:

  1. Instructing or briefing the professional on how you want your home to look like when it is completed.
  2. The professional would design the plans for your home in a sketch format for you to approve.
  3. Then the professional will prepare drawings, specifications etc for you.
  4. An application is made for a planning permit (if required).
  5. Complete drawings are completed such as computations, tests, reports, drawings, specifications, schedules, etc)

The Law requires that all plans and specifications contain sufficient information in order for a building permit to be obtained.


You the owner would engage an architect/designer/drafts person or engineer to draft and complete the design of your home. Before engaging a professional to provide these services you must ensure that the professional is registered.  Some builders offer these services or may provide the design of your home however, you must bear in mind that all professionals providing such services must be qualified and registered.

If you engage a professional for the design of your home you will have to enter into a Design Contract (which is a Domestic Building Contract) unless the professional providing you with this service is a registered architect, a registered engineer in building engineering or a drafts person registered in building design. Firms providing these services where only one or more directors are registered would be considered as a registered party.

You must enter into a Domestic Building Contract for the pre-construction phrase of your home if you are engaging the services of any other professional builder. If the cost of the service is more than $5000 then you will need to enter into a major domestic building contract with the other party.

It’s usually the case that Design Contracts reach completion upon the granting of a building permit which is issued by a building surveyor. What the Building Permit then allows you to do is to proceed with the construction of your home in accordance with the terms of that Building Permit. This is where you would usually enter into a Major Domestic Building Contract with your Builder for the construction of your home (“the Construction Phrase”). Some contracts however, provide for the design and construction of our home and in this case you need not enter into any further contract.

You are not obliged to enter into a construction contract with the same builder with whom you had a pre-construction contract with. You may elect any other builder to construct your home and use the plans and drawings you obtained from the first builder( unless it is otherwise stated in your pre-construction contract).


Design and Construct

Rather than entering into 2 separate contracts for the design and then the construction of your home, some owners enter into a Design and Construct Contract. In these types of contracts you would enter into the one contract for the entire project from the design of your home to completion of your home. These are Major Domestic Building Contracts and they must comply with the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995.

Spec Design Homes

Spec Design Homes is a term used where a builder has prepared the design of a dwelling (or a  different number of designs) that is offered to prospective owners to select from. The Builder would then construct the home in accordance with your selections. If you selected a design from the builder and didn’t modify anything then you don’t need enter into a design contract with the builder.  You would then enter into a Major Domestic Building Contract with your builder for the construction of your home only. It usually the case that owners would usually make modifications to the design s(we all have different tastes when it comes to what we like) and in which case a design contract would be entered into (provided that there is a charge for these modifications).

Display Homes

If you buy a display home, you buy the basic design of a home that would be constructed to completion. Owners of display homes are protected by the law as well, and the  builder is required (amongst other things) to build a home identical to the display home viewed by you except for items as agreed  by you as noted in your  Domestic Building Contract.

The Building Permit

In most cases its up to the builder to obtain the building permit. Sometimes you can elect to do this yourself however, in most cases the designer or builder would obtain a Building Permit. You must ensure that your Domestic Building Contract states whom is responsible for obtaining the Building Permit to avoid disputes.

If any changes are required to be made to the drawings or specifications, the designer is responsible for those modifications as required by the building surveyor.

Once you get your Building Permit you can start the construction of your home and you can only enter into a construction contract once the Building Permit is obtained or where documents  required to obtain a Building Permit are nearly completed or already submitted to Council for approval.


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