During construction and after
Stages of construction
Below is a simplified overview of the stages of construction to give you a general idea about what to expect when you are building a house through a builder.
Before starting work, the builder must apply to the relevant local authority for a building licence and Water Corporation approval. The local authority considers whether the plans comply with the relevant legislation governing building control, namely:
- the Building Code of Australia, which sets out the rules for building to protect building users and provide for their health, safety and comfort;
- the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1960; and
- the Building Regulations 1989.
Where the Home Building Contracts Act 1991 applies (for example, where the home building work is between $7,500 and $500,000), the builder has 45 working days from the date of the contract within which to obtain approval to build. Both the builder and the homeowner are required to do whatever is reasonable to ensure that this timeframe is met.
The "pre-start" meeting involves meeting with the builder so that you can make a number of important decisions about the types and colours of fittings and materials for your house. Your builder may have asked you to select items, such as tiles, from certain suppliers, prior to the pre-start meeting.
If you are thinking about any changes to the contract, make them now. If you make changes during construction, it will be expensive and will delay the completion of your house.
At this meeting, the builder may introduce you to the builder's representative, who you will be able to contact during construction.
During construction, it is recommended that you observe the following.
- Do not inconvenience or issue instructions to the tradespeople on site.
- Check that the building is proceeding according to plan.
- Communicate only with the builder or builder's representative and make sure you record the details of any discussions you may have about the construction of your house.
- Keep a diary to record all day-to-day happenings, including any discussions with the builder, weather and the progress of construction.
- Keep copies of any letters and notices that relate to the construction of your house.
- Take photographs of the construction at regular intervals.
If you are unsure about checking that the construction is proceeding to plan, you can employ an independent building consultant or architect to monitor the construction on your behalf.
The Building Commission provides additional information about building control in Western Australia.
Practical completion and moving in
Practical completion means that the building work is at a stage where the house can be reasonably capable of being used for its intended purpose. When the builder is satisfied that the house is ready for inspection, you will receive a notice of "practical completion".
It is recommended that you take care when inspecting the house with the builder to satisfy yourself that the builder has reached the practical completion stage. You should be reasonable, but not rushed into signing your acceptance that the house has been practically completed.
It is important that you do not overlook any major defects. It may be a good idea to employ an independent and reputable building consultant to assist you with this inspection.
Once you have moved in to your house, it may be difficult to prove that a defect was caused by the builder. In addition, once you've moved in, it may be difficult and disruptive for workmen to rectify any problems.
By law for contracts between $7,500 and $500,000, the builder is liable to make good, without additional cost, defects in the building work notified in writing within a minimum of four months from practical completion. Check your contract for the exact period of notification of defects.
However, regardless of the value of the building work and where the building work is performed in Western Australia, there is another safeguard in terms of the builder's legal responsibility for faulty and unsatisfactory work. Where any structural problems occur due to faulty workmanship or materials during six years from practical completion, you should contact the builder to rectify them.
If a dispute occurs about who is responsible to rectify a fault, you can take the matter to the Building Disputes Tribunal for determination.
Usually about five days after the date of practical completion, you should be ready to collect the keys to your house and make final payment. At handover, you should receive a copy of all relevant warranties and certificates arising from the contract. Make sure you have obtained the builder's written authority to take possession of the property.