6 January 2011

Builder Problems

| Bones
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I’ve recently moved into a brand new house that we’ve been waiting on for what feels like forever to be built.

Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that we had some problems. Just to list a few: gas leak, water leaking into the walls from the hot water system, sinks and toilets not draining, and get this – no emergency contact number! Our builder has gone on shut down until mid-Jan. Our persistance paid off when we went to their office and managed to find a very sympathetic cleaner who called the boss of the building company to track down their plumber for us.

The plumber turned up and fixed the gas, but claims there was no problem with the drains – no blockage, and must have been a surge from the mains. So …. does this not mean it can happen again at any time??? Meanwhile, the problem has killed our brand new dishwasher. It is under warranty so fingers crossed we can get it repaired.

The next drama appeared when the plumber accidently sent a text message meant for the boss of the building company, stating that we are sly and should be watched as we will try to hit them for a new dishwasher.

I’ve had enough of the problems appearing, and the insult was the last straw. I would appreciate any advice anyone can give on what I should do about my situation.

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“Is this not the case for house or apartment construction projects?” In short no, not for residential work.

OP, assuming you used a standard (-ish) form of ACT contract, basically non-urgent maintenance issues come under the 90 day maintenance period, while urgent stuff is required to be attended to asap by the builder (the “asap” part is obviously debateable over the Xmas period). If it was definitely urgent and you could not get hold of them, I think it would be reasonable to organise someone to repair it and send them the bill.

What did your plumber mean by a ‘surge in the mains’? Sounds fishy to me. Was he referring to the water mains?

far_northact2:22 pm 06 Jan 11

Good luck. Shame you can’t name and shame.

Wonder if it’s the builders I used… but judging from the comments whenever the building industry comes up, there are a lot of bad operators in Canberra.

I haven’t built my own house as yet, but I have been the client on a number of commercial construction jobs.

I know for a fact that as the client and utilising Australian Standards contracts, you are entitled to request and hold a bank cheque for between 1 and 5 per cent of the projects value against the base builder and your construction contractors for defects arising up to 12 months after receiving your building occupancy certificate.

Is this not the case for house or apartment construction projects?

In most cases a 5% bond or bank cheque would cover most large defects such as redoing a whole bathroom.

Thanks so much for all the suggestions.

I contacted the MBA and explained my situation. They recommended that I put my issues in writing to the builder and give them a week to respond. If I am then not satisfied I should contact the dispute resolution service of the MBA.
The very helpful lady also suggested taking photos and documenting everything.

After a quick chat to our neighbours who used the same builder, I have discovered we are not alone!

get in touch with Today/Tonight

Ah, the efficiency of self regulation. It works so well.

Would be nice if you can forward me a PM to let me know who your builder is? Our builder could be the same one.

Holden Caulfield11:20 am 06 Jan 11

The MBA and/or HIA are likely to be as useless as your original builder seems to be, but they are probably your best course of action in the interim.

And definitely document and keep a diary of any ongoing issues.

GardeningGirl10:54 am 06 Jan 11

As well as various lesser things that weren’t done as they should be, we had major bathroom issues after one year. In retrospect I question whether the time and effort spent on getting the builder to do what turned out to be a bandaid job that needed to be redone was worth it. IMO there should be a way to employ someone who will do the repair properly and have the builder pay the bill. Homeowner gets a proper repair, builder learns that it’s worth getting things right the first time, that’s what I call a win win situation. As for that warranty, it only helps if the builder dies/goes broke. Absolutely nothing to do with a builder going on holidays or being evasive or doing a cheap patch-up job . . . in other words if you’re after consumer protection for the biggest purchase of your life, good luck! Plenty of stories on the ABC (Stateline, 7.30 Report) about the inadequacies of the system.

Bones, I really feel for you and I hope you can get things resolved soon.

This is ridiculous.
“The next drama appeared when the plumber accidently sent a text message meant for the boss of the building company, stating that we are sly and should be watched as we will try to hit them for a new dishwasher.”
You HAVE a new dishwasher. If the new dishwasher was alright why would you be wanting a new new dishwasher, why would you want to go through that hassle?

Ring the MBA and speak to the complaints person. They were quite helpful

Then, once you’ve gotten their email address, email your builder cc’ing the MBA into it. That will guarantee some action.

My understanding is the structural warranty is up to 10 years. I had bathroom issues after 5 years and they (the builder) tried to ignore me. Once I pointed out that I had had it inspected and it wasn’t properly built in the first place, cc’ed the MBA as per the above, the action to rectify started quickly.

As I told my builder, if you think I’m a pain in the ass now, just don’t fix up the problems you created. I very quickly go from a pain in the ass to a vindictive c**t.

Stay on the builder’s and MBA’s cases

Francois Dillinger9:50 am 06 Jan 11


All newly erected buildings in the ACT are covered under what is effectively consumer protection legislation designed to protect people such as yourself. There is an implied warranty – I believe its upto 7 years for structural issues, and shorter times for various other types of latent property damage.

My advice would be to contact either a consumer protection body, perhaps the Rental Advice office (or similarly named body) to get them to direct you to the equivalent for new home owners.

I would strongly also recommend taking photos of each instance of damage and documenting (diarising) your correspondence with the builder. Try to communicate via email and pin them down into putting things into writing.

Depending on the seriousness(and it does sound serious), I would also recommend getting in touch with the free legal services offered by lawyers via legal aid type arrangements. Half hour appointments are free and not means-tested.

Chances are that if it is an issue related to the house and water supply, you will have breached the terms of the dishwasher warranty and will not be able to claim on it. The builder/plumber will, however, be liable for any damage associated with the construction of the building.

Play your cards carefully and treat it as if this is an issue that will go to court, although hopefully there wont be any need for it.

In re: Jennybel’s advice, chances are your lawyer for settlement/contract exchange was merely a conveyancer who usually doesnt deal with these types of issues. Do ask them if they would be interested/capable of taking it on, as they certainly shouldnt charge you for any advice incidental to the sale. Ask them beforehand if they intend to charge – if yes, go to the free legal advice service first.

To make you feel better, you are not alone. Building standards are shocking in the ACT given the amount services cost. I rent in a new complex in Canberra and, frankly, if I had been the owner I would be very very dissapointed (crooked ceiling, leaking balconies, leaking sink, all in a house < 1 yr old). Next door they (same mob) are putting up a new set of units and watching them in action is really quite depressing.

Good luck.

Review your contract, in particular the section that refers to your defects period and what your course of action is.

Beserk Keyboard Warrior9:34 am 06 Jan 11

You’re not alone. My house is 2 years old and I have similar problems.

Who is your builder?

As for advice, the best people to speak to would be your lawyers who handeled the contract I would suggest, they will be able to provide you with what your legal recourse is.

I would love to know who this builder is.

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