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Home building laws in every state or territory ensure tradespeople are appropriately qualified for the work they perform on residential properties. However, the home building laws do not cover all trades. If you are a tradesperson in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), you need to know when the Building Act 2004 (ACT) (the Act) may apply. This article will explain when and how you comply with home building laws in the ACT.

How Does the Act Define Home Building?

The Act requires you to know whether your work is: 

  1. considered building work;
  2. applicable to residential buildings or handling of asbestos; and
  3. exempted under the Act.

The Act defines building work as: 

  • work relating to the erection, alteration or demolition of a building, including any disposal of waste materials generated by the:
    • alteration of a building (with some exceptions); or
    • demolition of the whole, not part, of the building; or
  • work relating to structural repairs to a building.

 Residential buildings cover:

  • buildings intended mainly for private residential use; or
  • a part of the building intended mainly for private residential use, where the part provides structural support for the whole building.

For example, you have a four-storey house with a parking garage as the bottom storey. A structural defect in the garage could compromise the structure of the whole building. Therefore, the garage is a residential building because it provides crucial structure to the house. However, imagine if your building has shops on the ground floor, a hotel on the second floor and residential units on the third floor. That building would not be considered a residential building as that building has not been intended mainly for private residential use.

The Act also covers work that involves the handling of asbestos or disturbing friable asbestos. Furthermore, demolition works and works installing swimming pools are known as specialist building work. 

What Does the Act Exclude? 

The Act excludes building works such as:

  • fencing;
  • retaining wall construction;
  • assembling antenna or aerials;
  • building an artificial pool that can hold water no deeper than 300mm;
  • assembling a demountable pool;
  • building an outdoor deck   
  • a carport, pergola, porch, veranda, shelter, gazebo, shade structure or hail protection structure;
  • working on buildings without walls and a low roof or shade cloth;
  • building interiors;
  • any works that do not change the building’s classification, affect the exterior of a building or affect a heating appliance;
  • solar water installation; and 
  • installing air conditioning when it is not the main source of ventilation for the room or building. 

Contract Requirements

The ACT does not have express requirements on what must include in a home building contract. However, the contract should generally include details such as:

  • name of the parties;
  • tradesperson’s licence (if required);
  • start and completion dates;
  • plans and specifications for the works;
  • the scope of work;
  • payment arrangements;
  • statutory warranties;
  • contract price; and
  • provisions for variations to the scope of work.


You need to put a statement of warranties in any home building contracts valued at $12,000 or more. That means, as a tradesperson, you guarantee that:

  1. the work has been or will be carried out according to the home building laws in the ACT;
  2. the work has been or will be carried out properly and skillfully based on approved plans;
  3. good and proper materials have been or will be used;
  4. the work will be carried out with reasonable promptness when there is no date of completion in the contract; and
  5. if the homeowner expresses a particular purpose for the work, the work and any material be reasonably fit for the purpose. 

The warranty periods apply to works or structural defects for six years and two years for non-structural works or defects.


The ACT has a separate law that covers licences for those who carry out building work. However, the ACT government only issues licences for:

  • builders;
  • building assessors;
  • building surveyors;
  • drainers; 
  • electricians;
  • gasfitters;
  • gas appliance workers;
  • plumbers; and
  • works assessors.

If your trade is covered by the above list and you do not get a licence, you will face criminal penalties.

For example, if you are an electrician, you will need to complete an online or paper form and provide evidence of your qualifications and financial position. You will also have to choose whether you need a general or a more specialised type of licence.

However, if you work in the ACT as a tradesperson not covered by the above list, such as a carpenter, you do not need a licence in the ACT.

Key Takeaways

The ACT has a range of exemptions that may mean your trade is covered for some jobs and not for other jobs. Even if your trade is covered under the laws, you may not need a licence to carry out work. Ensure you comply with any statutory warranties if you have a home building contract worth $12,000 or more. If you have any questions, get in touch with LegalVision’s building lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.


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