The ACT Government has conducted nearly 800 building inspections in the past year as part of its much-touted crackdown on developers and builders in a bid to raise construction standards, particularly in the apartment sector.
It has released details of its enforcement activity since 1 July 2018 showing that Access Canberra building inspectors had undertaken 793 building inspections and assessments as well as additional 24,282 electrical; 3139 solar; 817 plumbing; 1779 gas and 3241 drainage checks.
This resulted in three rectification orders where contractors were directed to fix problems and 10 directions to owners to undertake building work.
There were 28 stop work notices and seven controlled activity orders, which relate to unapproved work and require development approval to be sought or the unapproved building works to be demolished.
Over the year, 181 demerit points were issued against the licence of a builder for not complying with the building regulations.
The Government has also announced a new, simpler website through Access Canberra with information about making complaints, the dispute resolution process, and requirements to build, buy or renovate, as well as the Disciplinary Register where builders found to have breached the rules are named.
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Minister for Building Quality Improvement Gordon Ramsay urged consumers to thoroughly investigate the work history of builders before building or buying a property.
“We want a community that is empowered, where people have all the information they need and understand their rights and responsibilities when embarking on a purchase or renovation project,” he said.
“We have created a one-stop website for consumers and industry members to find out the relevant policy and regulation that applies in the ACT. If you are looking for a builder – we have made it even easier to search for a licensed professional via our database as well as make an enquiry or lodge a complaint if necessary.”
Mr Ramsay said information on the website would continue to be enhanced and resources added over the coming months, including videos and other user-friendly resources.
In the face of increasing complaints about building defects and an Assembly committee inquiry into building standards, Access Canberra deputy director-general Dave Peffer last December warned builders and developers that they could expect more site inspections, tougher licence renewals and to be named and shamed on a more visible Disciplinary Register.
But a check of the Register shows only one building firm was added in the past year, and that was for an administrator being appointed.
The Government has also beefed up the regulator with eight new building site inspectors and more support staff funded in the Budget. The $8.9 million spend, to be offset by an increase in the annual Builder Levy of 0.1 per cent and builder licence application fees, will mean more site inspections, and extra staff to administer tougher licencing requirements and better educate the community and building industry.
It said the eight new rapid response officers would conduct up to 1000 more inspections and site assessments each year, while four more compliance officers would be employed to help oversee the new licence requirements for new and existing builders, which will now include more than 450 exams a year.
Mr Ramsay said industry had been clearly put on notice that the Government would not tolerate building work that was not of a high standard – and neither would the community.
“Buying, building or renovating a property is one of life’s biggest investments, and our community can rightly expect that the building work is of a high standard and built to stand the test of time,” Mr Ramsay said.
“I’ve made it clear that there is no place in the ACT for those in the industry who cut corners, deliver poor quality or non-compliant work, flout necessary approvals or do not rectify issues that might emerge.”
He said more inspections was good news for the community because it meant more boots on the ground and an active presence on building sites to ensure builders complied with the rules.
Mr Ramsay said there had been a number of high-profile enforcement actions taken in the last 12 months such as the stopping of work on a major site in Bruce as relevant approvals were not in place and 17 stop work notices in Gungahlin.