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5 things about building surveyors’ responsibilities in Victoria

What are building surveyors, and what role they play in your domestic or commercial building project?

Why do you still need an expert building consultant?

Building surveyors are qualified individuals that provide independent oversight of buildings and building works at specified intervals during the building process to ensure that the works comply with the Building Act 1993 (Act), Building Regulations 2006 (Regulations) and the Building Code of Australia 2007 (BCA).

Purpose of inspections

Such inspections are conducted to ensure that buildings are structurally sound, fit for purpose and suitable for occupation upon completion.

This is important for:

  • facilitating and promoting cost-effective construction of buildings;
  • ensuring that buildings constructed are environmentally and energy-efficient;
  • enhancing the amenity of such buildings; and
  • protecting the safety and health of people who use such buildings and places of public entertainment.

Under the Regulations, mandatory inspections include foundations, in situ concrete members, frame and final inspection. Additional inspections may be necessary, depending on the particular circumstances of the building.

Statutory responsibility

Under the Act, building surveyors have a statutory responsibility to ensure that buildings are safe to occupy, energy efficient, accessible, and fit for occupation. In order to do so, they have to:

  • review building plans for compliance with current standards and legislative requirements;
  • conduct building inspections;
  • issue legislative permits and approvals; and
  • undertake enforcement.

Building surveyors must not issue a building permit unless he or she is satisfied that:

  • the building work and building permit will comply with the Act and Regulations; and
  • any consent of a reporting authority required under the Act or Regulations, or any other Act or Regulations has been obtained or deemed to have been obtained;
  • any relevant planning permit or other prescribed approval has been obtained; and
  • the building permit will be consistent with that planning permit or other prescribed approval.

If building surveyors fail to comply with their statutory responsibilities, they may also be found personally liable for breaching their duty of care to the owner of the building. This is demonstrated in the VCAT decision Toomey v Scolaro’s Concrete Constructions Pty Ltd (In Liquidation) and Others. This duty was extended even further in the VCAT decision Taitapanui v HIA Insurances Services Pty Ltd where it was found that a building surveyor could be found liable to a subsequent owner for breach of that duty.

This was subsequently affirmed in the Supreme Court of Victoria’s decision Moorabool Shire Council & Anor v Taitapanui, where Smith J held that the building surveyor should have known that a subsequent owner would assume that the house has been competently built, and foundations adequate unless the inadequacy of the footings had become manifest.

In contrast, the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (DBCA) does not confer any statutory functions or obligations on a building surveyor.

Finite scope of responsibility

It is important to note however, that under the DBCA, building surveyors are not responsible for the following:

  • level of workmanship;
  • quality of building work;
  • product reliability; or
  • warranties implied under contractual arrangements between consumers and builders.

These responsibilities are instead borne by the builder under the implied warranties concerning all domestic building work under the DBCA.

Role of building surveyors

Beyond onsite inspections of buildings and building work, building surveyors in Victoria also have the following statutory functions under the Building Act 1993:

  • issue building permits;
  • issue certificates of final inspection and occupancy permits;
  • approve temporary occupation of buildings; and
  • enforce safety and building standards
  • provide advice on building legislation, which could in turn influence the design of buildings.

Outsourcing onsite inspections

While a building surveyor may outsource onsite inspection work to a building inspector, it is the building surveyor that remains responsible for ensuring that the inspection has been properly conducted and that the building and building work substantially complies with the existing regulations and the builder permit.

On balance, the building surveyor has to ensure compliance of the building and all building works with the Act, Regulations and the BCA during mandatory inspection stages, and give final approval before issuing the relevant permits and approvals. However, it is noted that he or she is ultimately not a site supervisor, principal contractor, ‘clerk of works’, project manager or designer for a domestic or commercial building project (Lewis v Threadwell) and should not be held responsible for issues relating to those roles

What is out advice???

Whilst the Building Surveyor has a duty of care to ensure compliance with your build and workmanship they are not required to check everything and  their scope of duty is limited to certain works and not actually administration  of your contract or contractual compliance.

 Did you know that the Building Surveyor is only required to inspect pre-pour of your slab or footings, after foundation has been completed, frame and thereafter they do not attend until the works are deemed complete by the builder and ready for an occupancy permit?  A lot can happen from frame stage to completion and therefore it is imperative that you do engage your own building consultant to review yoru contractual plans and drawings, variations  and deal with any of your concerns reagarding the quality of workmanship and materials or deal with any other defects on your property from the get go

If you wish to take advantage of our free 30 minute consultation call Boutique Lawyers on 1300 556 140

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