Following the disastrous defects which forced the evacuation of the Opal and Mascot Towers, the New South Wales government has moved to introduce new laws, which will better protect future apartment owners.
The Design and Building Practitioners Act 2019 (NSW) will dramatically increase the accountabilities for builders and designers, including a requirement to register plans for key elements such as fire safety and waterproofing, to ensure they are compliant with the Building Code of Australia.
The Design and Building Practitioners Bill 2019 [NSW] (Bill) proposes that a select few builders and designers will need to be registered practitioners and provide a compliance declaration where required. The supporting regulations (which are yet to be developed) may require registered designs and compliance declarations to be electronically lodged.
Further to this, the NSW government has advised the changes also allow for the prevention of the issuance of an occupancy certificate or registration of a strata scheme, if serious breaches are believed to have occurred.
The Bill also carries a provision that a duty of care is owed to homeowners. This provision would make it easier for those impacted by shoddy work to sue for compensation – however these reforms will only apply to buildings yet to be constructed.
When introducing the Bill, Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson said it marked a monumental step in the reform of the building and construction industry.
“People should feel confident they can enter the housing market in NSW, knowing their home has been designed and built in accordance with the Building Code of Australia, which is what this Bill is designed to do,” said Anderson.
“We are sending a clear message to industry and the wider community that things must change. Let there be no misunderstanding of the NSW Government’s intention to bring confidence back to the high-rise apartment market in NSW.”
Failure to comply with the new laws could result in fines up to $330,000 or even the possibility of up to two years imprisonment.
Engineers Australia responds
Engineers Australia believes the Berejiklian government hasn’t gone far enough with the Bill.
They’re calling for a compulsory registration scheme for all engineers, rather than a select few, arguing it is in the best interest of consumers and the community.
They would like to see a separate engineers registration bill introduced to Parliament in 2020, with registration a pre-requisite to practicing as an engineer here in New South Wales.