The property sector may yet win concessions from the ACT Government on its proposed bill to license developers and set up an enforcement regime to protect home buyers, but the die appears cast.
The bill shows the government is determined to rein in the cowboys and go after company directors who too often move from one project to the next with impunity despite leaving behind them a trail of tears for new homeowners left with having to pay for repairs they shouldn’t have to deal with.
Buying a home is a huge investment financially and emotionally, probably the biggest of one’s life for most people.
The experience of having it all go wrong can be devastating, and too many Canberrans have been there.
The property sector argues that the bill, particularly making developers personally liable, will have unintended consequences such as deterring investment and forcing them to take their business to less risky environments.
But it is doubtful the bill will bring the industry to its knees or drive developers out of town given the amount of housing the ACT needs and the money that can be made.
Many would say that developers have nothing to fear if they just built quality projects.
But as one builder told me, things can always go wrong and should be factored into expectations. It is how you respond that matters.
The bill aims to create an environment for better quality but also ensure that defects, when they unfortunately occur, are repaired (remember, the big issues are usually with multi-unit or townhouse projects), not ignored until after the defect period has expired or until buyers or owners corporations have had to take expensive and exhausting legal action.
Reputation matters, and developers and builders should be more concerned about establishing and maintaining that than avoiding their responsibilities.
That said, the property sector rightly pointed out the government has not brought everybody into the chain of accountability, arguing that if anyone should be licensed, it is the trades and contractors, such as waterproofers, who can operate without qualifications.
Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins says designers and architects also need to be included.
“Unless the ACT Government is willing to implement a full framework of accountability for designers, trade contractors and supervisors, including minimum training and experience requirements, and aligned liability periods for developers and all building practitioners, then the government’s attempt to hold property developers to account will fail,” he says.
The government says it is looking at this down the track, but developers, who more often than not are not builders, can feel singled out without a whole-of-construction approach.
The MBA reasonably wants the government to commit to implementing all 24 recommendations of the Building Confidence Report before the bill passes.
If anything, the proposed regime should help weed out the dodgy operators and incentivise the industry generally to lift its game.
The property sector will keep lobbying, but change is coming, and home buyers will welcome it.