5 Essentials Before Starting a Building Project

So – you’ve got the plans from the architect to build your dream home. Maybe you’re finally fixing up that fixer-upper?

Enthusiasm is high – as is your bank balance – and you’re picturing how good that cup of tea is going to taste 12 months from now as you lean leisurely against your marble-topped kitchen island, surveying the finished result.

When starting a building project, it’s easy to get swept up in the dream and forget about some of the less fun tasks. But the reality is, a little homework now will save you a lot of hassle in the future. Luckily, we’ve done the homework for you! Here are five do’s and don’ts to help keep your project running smoothly.


1) DO: Use a registered builder or licensed tradesperson

There are lots of rules around what building work can be done with or without a registration or licence, and the value of the work can also affect this. To add to the complexity, different practitioners are licensed by different bodies. So, how do you know what’s needed?

First, consider how many tasks you’re getting the builder or tradesperson to do. Most building or renovation work that involves more than a single task requires a registered builder or licensed practitioner to do the work.

Still unsure? Head to the Consumer Affairs Victoria website: consumer.vic.gov.au.

You can check if your builder is registered on the Victorian Building Authority website: vba.vic.gov.au/find.


2) DO: Appoint your own surveyor

A building surveyor checks off work at specific stages of a building or renovation project, and they’re responsible for issuing your Occupancy Permit or Certificate of Final Inspection. Because they’re checking that the work meets required standards, it’s important they remain impartial.

By law, a builder must not appoint a building surveyor on your behalf. They can recommend a surveyor for your project, but you’re free to choose your own.

You can find a list of local building surveyors at the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors website: aibs.com.au.


3) DO: Get it in writing

Your contract is your most important resource in a building project. It sets expectations for both you and your builder on what work will be done, by when, and to what standard.

If the total cost of your project is more than $10,000, the builder must use a major domestic building contract– even if the contract is split into several smaller amounts.

Your contract should include the details of your fittings and fixtures, right down to the make and model of appliances. Being specific helps avoid extra costs later in the project.

Tip: It’s best to use a written contract for all building projects, regardless of the value of the work.

For more information on building contracts, visit the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.


DON’T: Pay a deposit before getting insurance

Builders are required to take out Domestic Building Insurance (DBI) on your behalf for all projects over $16,000. They should do this before you sign a contract, and provide you with a copy of your Certificate of Insurance.

DBI protects you if your builder cannot finish the building project or fix defects because they have died, become insolvent, disappeared, or failed to comply with a tribunal or court order.

DBI doesn’t cover everything and there are limits on the amount you can claim, so it’s worth familiarizing yourself with your policy.

Visit dbi.vmia.vic.gov.au to check if your builder is eligible for insurance, to confirm your project is insured, or for more information on policy inclusions.


DON’T: Forget about your warranty guarantees

The law requires a builder to meet certain obligations when they do building work. These are called ‘warranties’ in the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995, and ‘consumer guarantees’ in the Australian Consumer Law. You have rights under both laws – and these apply regardless of the cost or whether you have a written contract.

These guarantees require the builder to do things like:

–    carry out the work with reasonable care and skill

–    ensure the materials used are fit for the intended purpose

–    ensure your home is suitable for occupation when the work is completed

Building warranties apply for up to 10 years from the completion of the work (even if the home is sold to a new owner during this time).


Got questions on your building project? Ask the experts at this year’s Melbourne Home Show!

Speak to staff from Consumer Affairs Victoria, the Victorian Building Authority, the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority and Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria at the Victorian Government stand.

Note: The information in this article applies to building or renovating in Victoria. Building laws and regulations may differ for other states.

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