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 Victoria, you need to know when the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic) (the Act) may apply. This article will explain when and how you comply with home building laws.

How Does the Act Define Home Building?

The Act applies to ‘domestic building work’. Examples include the:

  • erection, construction, renovation, alteration, extension, improvement of or repairs to homes. For example, the Act covers landscaping, paving and work on existing structures like structures, driveways, fencing, garages, carports, workshops, swimming pools or spas;
  • lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, water supply, sewerage or drainage works;
  • demolition or removal of a home;
  • work covered by building permits under the Act; and
  • plans or specifications for any of the above work.

A home in Victoria means any premises used for residential reasons. The definition includes any part of commercial or industrial premises that is used for residential reasons.

What Does the Act Exclude? 

The Act excludes many types of construction work and building types. The definition of ‘home’ excludes works on:

  • caravans;
  • rooming houses;
  • nursing homes;
  • hotels; and
  • motels.

The Act also excludes:

  • works carried out on:
    • farming buildings;
    • commercial buildings;
    • buildings for housing animals;
    • government residences;
    • schools or universities;
    • any buildings used for community services;
    • prisons; and
    • disability residential premises;
  • work by architects, engineers and draftspeople;
  • foundation works on domestic buildings;
  • transporting houses or domestic buildings; and
  • works on or within subdivisions, including:
    • roads, bridges or pathways;
    • services that include sewerage, drainage, water supply, power, gas or telecommunications;
    • engineering, fencing or landscaping in the subdivision of land; and
    • environmental works as required by law.

You are not covered by the Act if your contract only involves one of these activities, such as:

  • attaching external fixtures such as awnings, security screens, insect screens and balustrades;
  • carrying out electrical work;
  • glazing;
  • installing floor coverings;
  • insulating;
  • painting;
  • plastering;
  • tiling (wall and floor);
  • erecting a chain wire fence to enclose a tennis court; and
  • erecting a mast, pole, antenna, aerial or similar structure.

If you are working on two items on that list, such as painting and plastering in someone’s house, then the home building laws will apply.  However, if the contract is only for plastering, you are not covered by the laws.

Major Domestic Building Contracts

In Victoria, any builders or tradespeople who are covered by the home building laws (except for contracts between builders and subcontractors) should prepare a major domestic building contract if the work is worth $10,000 or more.

The contract should include:

  • the terms of the contract, written in clear English;
  • detailed description of the works;
  • names and addresses of the parties to the contract;
  • your registration number on the builder’s registration certificate;
  • the contract price;
  • when the contract comes into effect;
  • key definitions of words and phrases used in the contract;
  • the deposit amount and progress payments;
  • a five-day cooling-off period;
  • implied warranties (or promises that guarantee the works be of a certain standard); and
  • a checklist for approved domestic building contracts.

For work that is more than $16,000, you should provide your client with a current certificate of domestic building insurance that covers the building project.

Your contract should cover, where applicable, any prime cost items or provisional sum items.

Prime cost items refer to fixtures and fittings that your clients wants included in the contract which you have not identified or costed. Provisional sum items are potential costs of additional work that you cannot price (despite your reasonable enquiries) at the time of entering the contract.

Whenever possible, you should specify a fixed total price in the contract to avoid disputes over the true cost of these additional items.

You are not required by law to have a contract with your client if the contract sum is less than $10,000. However, a contract for all building projects is a good way to avoid any unwanted disputes with homeowners about the building project. 

Licences

You should apply for a licence with the Victorian Building Authority if you:

  • perform domestic building work that costs more than $10,000;
  • carry out re-blocking, re-stumping, demolition or removal of a home, regardless of cost; or
  • provide more than one type of building work (such as plastering and painting) that costs more than $10,000 (including labour and materials).

You must apply for the licence that aligns with your trade. The type of licences available include: 

  • building surveyor;
  • building inspector;
  • quantity surveyor;
  • engineer;
  • draftsperson;
  • person responsible for a building project;
  • erector or supervisor (temporary structures); and
  • builder (commercial, domestic or demolisher).

For example, if you are a carpenter, you may consider applying for a licence as a domestic builder in the limited class of carpentry. You will have to prove your experience by submitting a technical referee report and experience statement.

Key Takeaways

Your trade may be covered under Victoria’s home building laws in specific circumstances. If you are asked to do a particular job that falls under one of the exceptions, such as plastering only, your trade will not be covered by the Act. 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.

Robert Nay
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