New construction doesn’t always go smoothly, and building defects sometimes result. They can occur at any time during the build, for any of a number of reasons. A professional building inspector can spot potential issues before construction is completed, helping to ensure new property owners aren’t left to deal with either general or major building defects.
What kind of defects are we talking about, and how serious are they? As it turns out, there are quite specific definitions of what constitutes a building defect. Defects can stem from low-quality materials, poor workmanship, or defective design. Any work or structure which fails to comply with National Construction Code requirements may contain general or even major building defects.
Defining General and Major Building Defects
According to recent changes in the Home Building Act, as of 15 January 2015, a general building defect is essentially any defect which fails to pass the major defect test. In other words, any defect which can’t be classified as “major” is, by default, a general defect. So what, then, qualifies as a major building defect? Home Building Laws classify a defect as major when two conditions exist:
- It involves a “major element” of the building, meaning anything essential to the stability of the structure such as the roof, walls, foundation, et cetera, a fire safety system, or waterproofing. And,
- It renders all or part of the building uninhabitable, or otherwise impossible to use for its intended purpose; or if the defect threatens to collapse or destroy all or part of the building.
Note that warranties differ between the types of defects. For major building defects, new building contracts cover owners for 6 years under current statutory warranties. This allows additional time to correct major structural defects, whereas general defects are covered for 2 years.
Also of note, for contracts entered into after 15 January 2015, if a defect is determined to be the result of the owner’s instruction, in contradiction to the advice of the builder, the builder will have a legal defence under section 18F of the Home Building Act.
Protecting Your Investment from Major or General Building Defects
There’s a lot to keep track of when building a new home, and lot that can go wrong in the process. A builder may not be able to catch a potentially serious defect in time. Property owners who aren’t familiar with the building trades often miss areas of concern, leaving issues uncorrected and mostly undetected before handover. Problems which go undetected beyond handover can become the sole responsibility of the owner, leaving them with little to no financial recourse available. A licenced professional building inspector will examine your home thoroughly, and determine if the build is going to plan and all materials and workmanship are to standards.
Your new home is likely to be one of the largest and most potentially valuable investments you make during your lifetime. Therefore, it’s imperative to protect your financial interests by avoiding defects which could easily lead to costly repairs if not discovered during warranty periods. While having a basic understanding of the difference between general and major building defects can be helpful, it’s also important to have the help of a trained and experienced professional. Investing in stage construction inspections and working with a professional building inspector is the best way to head off those defects before they become a major issue. Armed with a bit of knowledge and the assistance of a seasoned professional, you can ensure your major investment is protected before you take possession of your new residential property.
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