NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler set to receive more powers to tackle defects

Australian homes are experiencing significant water damage and resulting health risks, with many homeowners often unaware of the hidden dangers.

For some Australians, the dream of owning their own home is becoming a nightmare as they deal with the ramifications of poor waterproofing

By Alexander Lewis

ABC News. Posted Sun 19 Nov 2023 at 5:09am Sunday 19 Nov 2023 at 5:09am, updated Mon 20 Nov 2023 at 10:54pm

New South Wales builders will be forced to fix defects before finishing a new home under laws set to pass this week, strengthening the powers of the state’s building watchdog. 

Key points: 

  • The NSW Building Commission will be given extra powers to order fixes during construction  
  • Premier Chris Minns says the laws are aimed at boosting public confidence in buying homes off the plan 
  • $24 million has been slated to upscale building inspections    

Current legislation only permits inspectors to issue a rectification order after construction is complete and a buyer has complained. 

“By then the horse has already bolted,” NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler said. 

“The earlier you get in, the more likely you are to get a better outcome.” 

The changes will give inspectors the authority to enter any dwelling while it is being constructed to look for defects. 

Premier Chris Minns said the laws aimed to boost the public’s confidence in buying homes off the plan as the state grapples with a housing shortage. 

“A big part of the financing model to get new homes and units and apartments through the system is to have people buy off the plan,” Mr Minns said. 

“Now, that’s a leap of faith.” 

‘Chasing them out of town’ 

Mr Chandler used the example of a company in far north NSW, which saw the Department of Customer Service receive 15 complaints involving the Gold Coast-based company over unfinished houses.      

“Art of Homes folded their tent … and left half a dozen owners just in the most shocking situation,” he said. 

“Firms like that we’ll be chasing them out of town.”   

The commissioner said that the inspectors will be looking for a range of defects that could end with demolition. 

“Some have got marginal issues where you’ve just got to say sort this out lift your game, but others are simply at a point where you’ve got to say ‘we’ve got the draw a line here, knock that down and do it again’.” 

Mr Chandler was appointed as the state’s first Building Commissioner in 2019, after two Sydney apartment buildings were evacuated because of cracking. 

He said the commission would select houses and units to inspect based on the advice of intelligence teams brought across from NSW Fair Trading. 

“The Intelligence Unit at Fair Trading, I’m told, has intelligence only second to the Defence Department in Australia. 

“These guys have a 90 per cent plus success rate in landing on the risky players.” 

Millions of dollars slated for inspectors 

The government has allocated $24 million to set up the NSW Building Commission which will be staffed by 400 inspectors transferred from Fair Trading. 

Building minister Anoulack Chanthivong said the reforms would stamp out “intentional phoenixing” in the construction industry. 

Phoenixing is the practice of liquidating an insolvent company and creating a new one to continue the same business without the financial liabilities of the old entity. 

“We will be able to cancel and review your license to ensure that bad builders no longer have a place in this industry,” Mr Chanthivong said. 

“We are coming for you. We will not allow people to invest all their hard-earned money only to be ripped off.” 

The building commissioner said telltale signs of a defective building were often visible from the street. 

“Where you’ve got a pile of rubbish … it just indicates that it’s been mayhem during the build.” 

The government vowed to continue cracking down on fraudulent behaviour in the sector. 

So far this year, it has cancelled the licences of four building certifiers. 

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