Building Act amendments and their implications for councils
The Victorian Government is carrying out an in depth review of the Building Act 1993, which is expected to be completed in late 2023. In the meantime, it has introduced into Parliament the Building, Planning and Heritage Legislation Amendment (Administration and Other Matters) Bill 2022.
The Bill proposes to make a significant number of amendments to a range of legislation, including the Building Act. Some of these amendments will impose additional obligations on councils and may have serious implications for resourcing of council building departments.
The proposed amendments to the Building Act
The most notable change proposed in the bill that will impact councils is the requirement for Municipal Building Surveyors to inspect certain prescribed classes of building work prior to the relevant building surveyor issuing an occupancy permit. In his speech to Parliament, the Minister for Planning indicated that the MBS may engage others, including a fire safety engineer, to assist in this task. The Minister also indicated that it is currently intended to prescribe class 2 buildings (residential apartments) for this MBS inspection requirement.
This new requirement will impose a significant resourcing burden on councils, particularly for those councils in which there are large numbers of class 2 buildings. It may also create a liability risk for council in the event that a defect is not identified during this inspection.
Should this proposed amendment be passed by Parliament, councils will need to consider how those types of inspections can be resourced and the best way to structure inspections so as to focus on significant or common defect risks, so as to minimise the liability risk posed by those inspections.
Another significant amendment is the proposal that cladding levy funds can be directed by the Minister to organisations other than Cladding Safety Victoria, including councils. This is for the purpose of delivering programs for cladding rectification for buildings that fall outside of Victoria’s Cladding Rectification Program.
Other notable amendments to the Building Act include:
- Formalising the role of the State Building Surveyor and empowering that role to:
- provide technical advice and guidance to building surveyors, builders and plumbers
- issue binding determinations on interpretation of technical standards and requirements for building and plumbing work
- propose improvements to regulatory oversight and practices; and
- monitor council’s delivery of their building control functions and provide councils with advice and support on performance of their functions
- Creating a new role of Building Monitor, intended to support and advocate for consumers affected by domestic building issues
- Establishing new building practitioner registration categories, including ‘site supervisor’, 'building consultant', ‘project manager’ (previously a ‘person responsible for a building project’) and ‘building designer’ (previously draftsperson)
- Imposing new requirements for the preparation of building manuals for certain prescribed buildings (residential apartment buildings)
- Empowering the VBA to obtain certain information from building and plumbing practitioners, including licensed building employees, for inclusion in its registers
- Amending the VBA’s information sharing arrangement powers to facilitate information sharing between the VBA and relevant agencies.
These amendments appear to be a forerunner to ambitious changes to the Building Act. We’ll report further when the legislation is finalised.
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