Buying a new apartment? What are your rights regarding defects?
We often get questions from clients purchasing off the plan or new units about warranties for building defects.
Defects usually fall into the following categories:
- Structural defects – leaking roof, leaking shower, health and safety issue; and
- Non-structural defects – eg. sticking doors or windows, minor cracking of plasterboard.
Sometimes, in off the plan purchases, the contract for sale will provide for a defect liability period in which you can raise concerns with the builder during a specified timeframe. There are also statutory warranties builders must comply with.
If you do buy a property and later discover building defects, there are a few options available:
1 – Contact the Builder
In the first instance, speak to the builder to see if the issue can be resolved. If talking is not successful, write to or email the builder a detailed list of every defective item. You should give the contractor a reasonable timeframe to respond and rectify the defective work.
2 – QBCC’s dispute resolution process
If the builder is unwilling to rectify the issue, you can make a complaint to the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC). You must lodge a complaint as soon as possible but complaints for non-structural defects must be made within 12 months and complaints about structural defects must be made within 6 years and 6 months from practical completion.
The QBCC will try and resolve the dispute between the parties. If a resolution cannot be reached, the QBCC may issue a direction to the builder or any relevant subcontractor to rectify the building work.
Where the builder or contractor fails to comply with a direction, QBCC may:
– commence disciplinary action in the QCAT or Magistrates Court; or
– for residential defects covered by a Certificate of Insurance, the work may be rectified as a claim under the insurance policy (see below).
3 – Assistance under Queensland Home Warranty Scheme
If your complaint is unable to resolved through QBCC’s dispute resolution process, you may be eligible for assistance under the Queensland Home Warranty Scheme.
The following time limits apply for some claims:
– for structural defects you must lodge this complaint form within 3 months of noticing the defect; and
– for non-structural defects you must lodge this complaint form within 7 months of the completion date.
If buying a new property, we recommend you do a search on the QBCC website of the builder to find out whether any directions have been issued against them.
There are limitations on the type of complaints QBCC can consider and the coverage of the Queensland Home Warranty Scheme. Please see www.qbcc.qld.gov.au for further information.