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12thJun2020

IGTV: Is it worth getting an independent building inspector?

  • Article by: Samara Amadi @ homeshelf




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Samara:

Hi. Welcome to our Insta-live. My name is Samara and I'm from Homeshelf. If you're not familiar with Homeshelf, we help save people time by searching around builders and finding new home options that suit your requirements.

So today I want to talk about, is it worth getting an independent building inspector. The number one factor for anyone building has to be the quality of their home. Everyone wants a good quality build, whether it's for you to live in or to sell. All builders promise you a good quality build, but how can you be sure of what you're really getting. For this reason, I've invited Rod from Darbecca to join the chat today. Darbecca has been delivering new home inspections in Melbourne for over 20 years. Samara:

Hi, how're you going?

Rod:

Good, thank you.

Samara:

...Thanks so much for coming to chat today.

Samara:

I just wanted to go through some basics first for those not familiar. So let's say you're building a new home in an estate in Melbourne. You found your builder and you've gone through the contract process... And the builder says that they're getting inspections done, and usually they suggest a building surveyor that's going to do that and they do inspections.

Samara:

Can you explain the difference for everyone between what you do and what that surveyor does?

Rod:

So essentially a surveyor will do the mandated inspections and the sign-off or certification of your home. Mandated inspections, there may be two or three up to slab stage. You'll have your frame stage and then it'll move into a C of O (Certificate of Occupation), which is right at the end. So obviously there's a great big gap there.

Rod:

What we do is we check as per your contract. So basically the quality. So as per the Australian standards, manufacturer's specifications, your engineering and your permitted documents, through every stage of the build. We can do pre-pour, frame, pre-plaster, fixing, waterproofing, finals. We do houses up to 10 years old that have some big issues we'll go in there and do post-maintenance as well.

Samara:

Okay. So how's that different from what the surveyor would do, let's say for a new build?

Rod:

So the best place to look that up and to keep my opinion out of it, I suppose, is Consumer Affairs, they look after the Domestic Building Contracts Act. So there's two acts in the building regulatory framework. You've got the Building Act that's regulated by the VBA, Victorian Building Authority, and you've got the Domestic Building Contracts Act that's regulated by Consumer Affairs. Consumer Affairs are there for the homeowners.

Rod:

So when you get your contract, you'll actually have a big write-up from Consumer Affairs that will tell you why you should consider having an independent third party inspector to ensure that your house is built as per the contract. So this is actually listed at the top or in the front section of every contract. Most builders won't necessarily point it out, but it's there. So you need only look through to find it.

Rod:

There's also a section of questions it will ask you to see if you're actually ready to sign that contract. A lot of people are signing contracts a little bit early. They're signing contracts before the land's titled. We're getting a lot of clients with concerns at the end of the build that half of the things they picked so long ago are no longer available for their build. So they're not really enjoying the build itself, which is a bit of an issue.

 

Samara:

..So the surveyors check some things, but not necessarily everything that goes on in the build..

Rod:

Surveyors are after compliance... They've got a set realm of things that they need to check as mandated items. And then you've got, what we do is basically not limited. So we look at the little things, but it's basically all in relation to the rules and regulations, so the Australian Standards. We're an advanced country. We have a lot of standards that are in place and they're there to be used.

Samara:

So the compliance standards are quite different in terms of...

Rod:

It's limited... So if you can think about they go there before the slab's poured, two or three times, depending on the complexity of your engineering, and then they go there at frame stage. So all the way from frame, which some do in week three, and they don't go there until right at the end and sign off at the C of O (Certificate of Occupation). So that's the best way to explain it to you. There's a big gap in the middle where there's no inspections.

Samara:

...All right. So who's responsible at the end of the day if something goes wrong with that home?

Rod:

This is the one that blows everyone's mind. It's the homeowner. So the homeowner is responsible for all improvements to the land.

 

Technically. It is a bit of a long-winded questions and there's different ways you can take it. But if you look at the legalities of it, there's something on my website if you want to check it out- Land owner's obligations. It goes into a lot of detail. That's Victorian-based... we do have different acts in different states so there will be slight variances, but they're quite similar.

Samara:

Okay. So what are the most important stages.. in terms of the Code and making sure everything's up to standard?

Rod:

Different things are important to different people. To me, it's about the structure. So you're looking at your pre-slab, your frame, there's your structure. Your pre-plaster. There are some trades that will go in and pull some of the structure apart to get their work done. A plumber may cut out some bracing or other things that tradies will see quite often. So these things happen after that frame inspection by the mandated inspector.

So even though they've signed the frame off, can you be confident that nothing's changed? So, that's a pretty important one is pre-plaster. So I'd say the first three. Waterproofing. Water's the biggest killer in all homes, so waterproofing is really important, particularly double stories. You've got timber subfloors, water coming down through, that's when you're going to start having some issues.

If you've got mold growing, that's a whole realm of different issues to come up that can really disturb lives, particularly if you've got existing health issues. I don't want to be a scaremonger, but that's, to me, they're the big ones. Most people go for the final because you know, that's important to them. But once you get to final, the structure's covered. Once you've plastered the structure's pretty much covered. So they are important. If people are really fussy, a fixing inspections really quite good because it means it only gets done once. There are no repairs at the end of the job. Finals are important, they'll be more energy related and other bits and pieces that will really present your home to your friends and family. But they're not the same as a structure.


Samara:

So let's say you go in and you find some defects that need fixing up in whatever stage it may be, like the plaster or in the frame stage, do you give that report to the owner and then they go to the builder and ask for that to get fixed?


Rod:

Yeah. So the homeowner and the builder are on the contract. So that's way it should stay. So we can act as an agent for the homeowner. There are ways that we can work directly with the builder if they want to set it up that way. Typically, that's not how we do business. We send it to the homeowners. Homeowner sends it to the builder. With the pre-pours, we've got a pretty good relationship with most builders. We've been around since 2003. We still have some struggles with some smaller builders. Most of the big builders we've got avenues that we talk to some of the big bosses and we like to sort things out with them and they work really well with us. So it's basically a case of, we send it to the homeowner. Homeowner sends it to the builder and then they've got a follow-up to make sure it gets rectified, do re-inspections, they can check, have meetings with their builder, whatever they need to do.

Pre-pours are different. We will get the concreters and the builders' email addresses. And we'll BCC. So if builders don't want to expose the contact details, we'll honor that. And we'll BCC and make our clients aware. Because a pre-pour will generally be inspected late afternoon and pour early the next morning. That's critical that that gets done. So ideally, we work really well with a lot of builders. We get there at the time that the concreters are there and then there's nothing outstanding. That's works well quite often. We get some bad pre-pours as well. So in that case, we may have to make some calls and speak to the builder and push the pour back. They're responsible for doing it. Technically we can't give direction. So we're not meant to be giving direction or anything like that. So we need to honor that. So it is a funny game with the legalities.


Samara:

So most of the time, most builders you work with, I guess not necessarily happy, but if you find a mistake, they're prepared to fix it ...

Rod:

Yeah. In this day and age, yes. They will tend to be quite active before the build and try and push you in certain directions. One of the other big elements is, I believe it was the 26th of April, 2018, legislation changed that homeowners can pick their own surveyors to try and break up the commercial relationship between surveyors and builders. The homeowners should really be actively going out and getting their own surveyor.

Some builders may say that if it caused delays or anything, and we can be charged time delays and all these sorts of things. It's not really enforceable under the Act. Homeowners' rights are very clear. We normally recommend that homeowners actively go and seek their own surveyors. There is a little bit of work to it, but it's worth it because you've got someone...

The other thing is even if the builder appoints the surveyor for you, the surveyor works for you, the homeowner. So you can pick up the phone, speak to the surveyor and say, "Hey, I've got a concern". Once the surveyor's aware of something, so you've got that big gap between frame and final. If you make the surveyor aware of it, they must act on it. And they must act in favor of the homeowner.

Samara:

And do you work with the surveyor as well, in terms of this or that's quite separate, you're only dealing with the client?

Rod:

It's separate. It is separate, but if we get some big-ticket items, we will call certain surveyors that we've built relationships with and have a chat with them. And we do that because a) we've got great respect for them and b) we want the best outcome for the homeowners and doing that, generally that's what you get. So we're happy to do it, but there's only so much you can do as well. So homeowners need to be fairly strong throughout their build.

Samara:

And aware of what's going on.

Rod:

Well, to be aware, they just need to give us a call. They can speak to us. We can put them onto a construction lawyer for legal advice, whatever they need. So we're always here for our clients, whether they've moved in the house and they got an issue six years later, they just need to pick up the phone and call us. If they need advice and I think most of our clients know it, some are just quiet people that probably should just stand up a little bit more and pick up the phone and give us a call. We're here to help.


Samara:

Yeah. Okay. We touched on contracts before. I've heard of people getting contract reviews. I think you guys do them as well. How would they help?


Rod:

Contract reviews. We can pick up sometimes there's double ups, there's other mistakes where they've charged for something twice. We can pick up on little things like that.

One of the biggest things you want to be looking out for in contracts, which you may be signing that you're not aware of, is special conditions. Some special conditions that some builders like to put in aren't actually enforceable because the builder can't contract outside of the Contracts Act and are performance solutions. So performance solutions, are an alternate method that are meant to be equal to the standard. So all home owners should be aware of all the special conditions and all performance solutions.


Samara:

That's something to think about when you're looking at your contract...

Rod:

Yeah. It's not for everyone. The most common complaint we get is homeowners have spoken to a sales guy and then they thought that we're getting something, they've signed for something else, they get to the end and they're very disappointed because they're expecting something else the whole way along. Unfortunately, if you've signed it, we can't help you. If you took it to a court of law, the lawyer is going to say, "Is that your signature? Did you sign it? Why did you sign it?"

Samara:

Yeah, it's all got to be written down..

Rod:

You should understand most things within your contract, but it's nice knowing that certain things you should be aware of. A lot of things are quite standard and you are protected by the Domestic Building Contracts Act. So in Victoria, we've got the HIA and we've got the Master Builders. So they're two separate types of contracts and they can add special conditions, but they cannot act outside of the Act or contract outside of the Act.

Samara:

Okay. So people are thinking about using a service like yourselves. Is there a registrar of people or is there certain certificates... how does that work with independent building inspectors?

Rod:

Under the legislation in Victoria, there's no requirement to have any sort of qualification or registration. I would suggest that you check sample reports definitely to work out whether they're actually acting in accordance with the building regulatory framework. And also you can ask if they have any qualifications or registrations. We have a number of registered builders at Darbecca. We have people that have come through from working as inspectors. We set a very high standard.


There are some parties out there that are new to the game that people really need to be aware of and paying someone to do the wrong thing can actually set you back worse than where you would have been yourself. So they really need to look, they're looking at sample reports, check ours out on our website. You'll see that everything's referenced to a standard. Basically a builder cannot ignore genuine defects. They must act on them. All right? So if you're getting someone that's a) missing genuine defects and b) not referencing anything, the builder's then just going to look at it and go, "Well, this is just rubbish". They might be happy that you're using them and not somebody else because it's easier for them. I'm not saying, it's a bit of a dispersion, but there's a lot of good builders out there. Don't take that the wrong way. But there are elements out there that might take advantage of it.

Samara:

Yeah, for sure. I think we've covered most things I wanted to talk about.... Anything else you'd like to add before we wrap it up?

Rod:

Check out our website, darbecca.com.au. Give us a call. We're happy to speak to people, put them on the right path. They don't have to use us. We'll speak to anyone. So we're here to help.

Samara:

Thank you. If you've got any questions... you can speak to Rod from Darbecca. Hope we've given you some insight today. Thank you so much for joining us.


Rod:

Okay. Thank you.


Samara:

Thank you. See you guys again soon. Bye.


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Publisher Website: www.homeshelf.com.au
 
Published: 12/06/2020
Author: Samara Amadi
Company: homeshelf
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