house-second-headeraa1jpg-1Consumers who attempt to build, extend, renovate or do repairs are totally unprotected and we can prove that this has been the case for the last 23 years. Many independent inquiries have confirmed this fact, but no government will listen or act to stop what is essentially ‘legalized’ building fraud. Just read some of the stories of those whose lives have been ruined, Then come join us and be part of bringing about genuine change. 

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Beware of the words “The House Seems to be Structurally Sound” because most building consultants do not get to even 2% of the structure up close and many do not understand soil heave.

The above words are inserted into most building inspection reports because all home buyers want to hear that message. But disclaimers and no guarantee often means something else altogether.

Many consultants will not have got into the roof… so they will not have inspected important detailing and performance criteria in the roof space such as:-
- Verticality of roof trusses,
- Adequacy of fixing of truss over-riders to truncated trusses,
- Adequacy of fixings of roof battens to trusses,
- Adequacy of tie-downs to wall framing
- Bottom chord stays spacing,
- Commencement of failure of truss timber components,
- Under-purlin props spacings (usually in older roofs),
… which is virtually the entire roof structure!!!

Many building consultants will not crawl (and virtually none will slide) under the timber floor of the home they are inspecting, so (even if they are not expert in termite investigations), they will miss structural items such as:-
- General condition of red-gum stumps (quite hard work to test)
- General condition of concrete stumps (which can get
concrete cancer to the point that the house might partially collapse… particularly 75 mm x 75 mm concrete stumps)
- Actual fully rotted timber or failed concrete stumps
- Signs of flooding
- Obvious past major termite attack / temporary repairs
- Temporary blocking up off bricks to compensate for rotted stumps
- Evidence of only partial re-blocking
- Excessive stump spacing
- Severed floor framing (at pipework but not trimmed to adjacent framing)
- Anything at all well away from the sub-floor access door or around the corner from the access door in an L-shaped house
- Excessive differential shrinkage at step-downs in floor levels
- Embedded steelwork causing differential shrinkage problems
- Inadequate back-fill at brick-wall footings and around stumps
- Delaminated brick piers to external brick veneer walls

Technical brochures stapled to the report are totally worthless in helping home buyers make a decision based on typical basic condition reports with their large numbers of disclaimers.

The wall framing is also basically not visible. It could have a major attack of termites and so the wall framing cannot be stated as being basically sound without a thorough termite inspection. This is often disclaimed, because the PI insurer knows that this cannot be adequately inspected and insists on the disclaimer.

So for such reports, (numbering well over 80% and likely over 90% of all reports carried out); those writers cannot reasonably assure their buyer clients that their intended homes are structurally sound.

Most building consultants :-
1. Have so many accessibility disclaimers that they do not get to the critical (structural) locations and also do not get to even 50% of defects. Many do not look at services at all and some do not inspect metal roofs.
2. Have a half-baked definition of ‘defect’ which means that symptoms (but not the defect which causes the symptoms) are often wrongly called defects. This is particularly important for new homes under warranty.
3. Lack the fierce desire to find as many defects as possible… which is basically their job description.
4. Fail to read up on manufacturer specifications, older standard specifications, codes and building science literature.

(Specifications have been sadly lacking in detailed workmanship clauses since about 1985).

And because of this (self imposed lack of accessibility... or I say) laziness at the coalface during inspections & the lack of an inquiring mind… and the lack of a fierce desire to research until they are expert in the detail, building consultants are most of them not expert at all (irrespective of how many reports they have done)… particularly for houses built since 1994 when privatization was in full swing and short-cutting increased with a vengeance. Most experience comes from getting to the defects.

So is it any wonder that most building consultants cannot adequately represent their builder or home owner clients in VCAT, because they have not researched sufficiently and/or accessed sufficiently to become an experienced authority on most defects?

Unfortunately when your building consultant is no more capable than the negating building consultant, nobody really wins... and each side ends up paying their own costs. And the settlement is often so meagre, (and so insubstantial), that costs often exceed the pittance offered; so that new home owners cannot afford to rectify their defect-riddled homes… and unless it is a hearing judgement, there will be a gag order that makes it illegal to tell your story.

But worse still, most defects (particularly in newer homes) are simply not being discovered at all by building consultants, causing VCAT arguments to be over lesser amounts; making substantial awards very rare indeed. The building act then comes into play, so that costs are therefore borne by each side… and home owners end up losing 'big-time'.

Despite most building consultants not being expert, the government authorities see fit to employ such individuals to mediate, and (following recent repressive reforms)… to aid conciliators that the governments would have us believe help building consumers. I tell you it is going to be an economic disaster without meaningful changes to basic definitions and a fair code... which has as its main aim the accessing of critical locations in the building. Disclaimers need to be grossly reduced or building inspection reports will most of them be (as the saying goes)... "not worth the paper they are written on".

In fact that is the case right now. Most building inspection reports are negligent.

Recent reforms have also failed to alter the fact that building consultants employed by the building authorities look only at what is submitted by the owners, have no definition of defect, and use the deficient Guide to Standards and Tolerances as their ‘authority text.’

There has been no change at all regarding a thorough definition of defect; so that the vast majority of building consultants remain inexpert and, aided by their disclaimers, are incapable of discovering even 25% of the defects (including structural) in most new homes.

Recent conciliation reforms will not change much at all, except that heads will be banged together prior to VCAT. And as with the BCAV before it, today’s conciliators will only be considering 25% of the total defects in those homes.

75% of defects will not be discovered; and those agreed to will be merely band-aided, via some sort of nebulous agreement between builders and home owners; where each has a totally inadequate scope of works for agreed portion of the (25% of defects in the house)... the discovered symptoms of defects. This will result in so-called 'repaired' items not being able to last a reasonable lifetime.

Defect-riddled houses (as a result of this abysmal lack of care), will be handed on to unsuspecting buyers in the future. And this tragedy is not just waiting to happen: it’s been happening for over 20 years now… aided and abetted by the pathetic Codes for Building Inspections AS 4349 series.

It is very likely that most building consultants have been negligent… many grossly negligent just by stating to their clients (without really knowing) just what their clients want to hear... that “The house is basically structurally sound”… because they have not made the extra effort to get to what is often actually accessible (admittedly sometimes needing a fit person to take on such a challenge).

People not willing enough or fit enough to carefully (and safely) reach critical locations in and on the roof and under the house should use their other capabilities in some other field of work other than building consulting.

It is the responsibility of a building consultant to discover as many defects as a fit person could reasonably discover at every building inspection. Nothing less is acceptable.

Occupational health and safety rules prohibit the performance of work on roofs (meaning physical work as distinct from just looking)... without a safety harness or equivalent.

Building consultants who argue that looking is work, might try to explain why they also insist on a minimum 600 mm clearance inside roofs and under houses when it is quite possible for most people to manoeuvre themselves through most trusses and over or under most ducting... and also to slide under timber floored houses where there is 350 mm clearance.

The only reason I have heard is that it says that accessibility is limited because it says so in the code for building inspections… a code written most likely by heads of larger firms wishing to drastically limit their liability associated with a lazy employee, an unfit employee, one who is not careful enough to avoid damaging heating ducts, services and the like, or one who does not stabilize his/her ladder (top and bottom) before climbing it.

Mark Whitby Retired Building Consultant / Architect Author DEFECT
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A follow up piece of advice Mrs XYZ… to bear in mind when you get your reply to your list of defects from the builder:

Builders on all but 2 of the 120 occasions when I have been involved with them in advanced disputes, have not stated in detail just how they proposed to rectify the items they agreed to fix.

And the agreed list was usually far less than half of the items… usually consisting mostly of the minor items plus a select few expensive-to-rectify items that they could short-cut (in the name of maintenance), instead of rectifying to prevent recurrence of those defects.

No builder stated that they were going to rectify any large item to the extent (scope of works) that three builder associates and I agreed was necessary to fully rectify those items.

In all but a few cases, builders took the approach of denying most (often all) larger cost defect items.

Also when my clients used the services of the Building commission’s building consultants via BCAV (recommended by VCAT and Consumer Affairs), over 75% of defects were usually denied… most of them on the basis that the items alleged by me were not failures and therefore not defects. In some cases the HGF (government insurer up to 2002) knew that failure was likely and that precedents existed where this was won in the Supreme Court, and yet still denied such alleged defect items. (One such alleged defect item occurring in virtually every house was only recently added to the Guide to Standards and Tolerances… on its own grossly insufficient in its endeavours to define defect by examples).

No authority or code has an ample (thorough) definition of defect.

Instead they rely on actual failure and the document stated above… because they know it will deny you of half, if not more of your rights to have your home and its components last a reasonable lifetime.

I say that warranties are stated in your contract, and that compliance with manufacturer requirements, soil report recommendations and structural engineer recommendations and design requirements also apply if not stated in the contract.
I also say that each system or element needs to be likely to last a reasonable amount of time, not just 6.5 years.

No-one else so far has stated this in their reports including over 20 building consultants who each carried out building inspections prior to me.

I have not lost any item on this basis in VCAT hearings to date (other than aesthetic ones that owners had seen prior to final payment), and the only thing that VCAT members can throw at this reasoning is that the cures must be a reasonable cost in keeping with the detriment expected by not rectifying the defect to recognised building standards.

In other words VCAT resist pull-downs and large costs for little gain due to the word warranty and several important precedents it seems... Good Luck.
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Over the last fifteen years, there have more than one hundred (100) Inquiries into the building industry and its governance. These have included parliamentary inquiries and investigations by the Auditor-General, the Productivity Commission, the Ombudsman and other independent organizations. 

The Victorian building industry has suffered from systematic and systemic failure for decades. We now have overwhelming evidence to confirm that this ‘system’ has been malfunctioning for the last 22 years.

After decades of criticism of  the Building Commission’s failure as the ‘industry regulator’, and following damning Reports from the Victorian Auditor-General (2011 and 2013) and a scathing Report from the Victorian Ombudsman in 2012, the Government decided that the Building Commission’s record was so tarnished that it had to be abolished.