Before taking on a building project as an owner-builder you should be aware that owner-builders take on many of the responsibilities of a registered builder. These responsibilities include:
- complying with all building standards including the Building Code of Australia and safety regulations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984;
- obtaining permits, submitting notices and meeting other requirements of the Building Services Acts; and
- managing and supervising the entire building project from start to finish.
The statutory responsibilities of an owner-builder cannot be delegated, no matter who is employed or contracted to carry out the work.
Selling your home
If you decide to sell your owner-built home within seven years of your building permit being issued, you must provide the purchaser with home indemnity insurance. You may be responsible for rectifying any faults identified by the purchaser after sale.
Carrying out and supervising the building work
Owner-builders are responsible for the supervision of the building work. Owner-builders may choose to undertake all or part of the building work themselves except where licensed tradespersons such as electricians and plumbers are required by law, or engage a registered builder to oversee part or all of the building work.
Please note that contracting out any of the work does not lessen an owner-builder’s responsibility.
Your skills and knowledge
Check to see if you have the necessary skills and knowledge to be an owner-builder by asking yourself the following questions:
- Can you competently interpret detailed plans and specifications?
- Are you qualified to supervise ALL construction work?
- Do you have the ability to coordinate the flow of work by subcontractors to enable you to complete the home inside your time schedule? Remember that constantly rising costs will have a major effect on the final price.
- Are you able to handle financial or contractual disputes with subcontractors and suppliers?
- Can you be available to be onsite to receive materials and ensure that they comply with specifications, required quantity and quality?
- Do you have the ability to distinguish what is considered to be poor building work?
- Do you have the experience to establish the value of work completed to enable you to make accurate progress payments to subcontractors?
- Do you have the ability to predict material and labour cost increases that may occur during construction?
- Are you able to determine if your land contains reactive clay or other problem soils and, if so, what action must be taken to overcome the problems to ensure the footings are structurally sound? If not, speak to the building surveyor from the local government office for assistance.
- Are you aware of the exact boundaries of your land? If not, engage the services of a qualified land surveyor if the boundary pegs are not evident or you have doubts as to their correctness.
- Do you know how to organise insurance to cover liability for personal injury and to cover the work against hazards such as fire, storm damage, theft, public risk and accidents?.
- Are you aware that the local government building permit imposes time constraints on the completion of your home?
Unless you are confident that you can comply with the requirements associated with being an owner-builder and the requirements placed on the building permit issued by the local government, you should seriously reconsider whether you should become an owner-builder.
Displaying a sign
While you are constructing your home or commercial building, you must affix or erect a sign on site that clearly shows:
- Your name.
- Your owner-builder approval number issued by the Building Services Board.
- Your telephone number.
The sign must be of a reasonable size and must be able to be read by members of the public from outside of the site. Failure to comply with signage requirements may result in prosecution proceedings being commenced or an infringement notice being issued.
The Home Building Contracts Act 1991 (HBC Act) applies to any person undertaking home building or associated work for a home owner, including owner-builders.
The HBC Act establishes certain contractual requirements in relation to carrying out ‘home building work’ and applies to contracts valued between $7,500 and $500,000.
As an owner-builder, you may be entering into ‘home building contracts’ with contractors. It is important to be aware of the requirements of this legislation.
National Construction Code
Please note the National Construction Code (NCC) is now available free of charge to people who register with the Australian Building Codes Board.
The NCC sets the minimum requirements and standards for the design, construction and performance of buildings throughout Australia.