The Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works is currently considering changes to the building certification regime.

Under Queensland’s current model, customers can seek certification services from a range of licensed and accredited private building certifiers or from their local government. Certifiers can be engaged directly by owners or by builders, but in most cases they are engaged by the builder. Certifiers can also set their own fees at present. Builders typically use the same certifier from project to project due to their relationship with the certifier, confidence in the certifier’s competence and the competitiveness and predictability of the certifier’s fees.

The Department of Housing and Public Works has become concerned that this current model may create a perception that certifiers have a conflict of interest especially where the builder is paying the certifier to ‘approve’ the builder’s own work.

What are the proposed changes?

The most significant proposals for change include:
  • Builders would no longer be able to lodge building applications for certification. Rather, the application must be lodged by the property owner with the QBCC.
  • Introduction of the “Cab Rank” certification system, namely:

– the QBCC will choose who will certify the works (rather than the builder or applicant)
– it will create more of an equitable distribution of certification jobs amongst licensed certifiers
– the introduction of a minimum standardised fee structure

  • Enforcement action is to be taken by local government only, not by certifiers.
 
There are also a number of other proposals being considered to boost confidence in the building certification system, such as:
  • The certifier who provides the building approval must be the same certifier who undertakes the mandatory inspections (ie must physically go to site)
  • Restrictions on who can become a QBCC licensed certifier
  • Cadets cannot conduct inspections unless they are supervised by the licensed certifier who issued the building approval
  • An increase of technical auditing of building certifiers by the QBCC
  • The ability for owners to request additional inspections and a final inspection if issues arise between the certifier and the builder
  • The QBCC must approve the disengagement of the certifier after mediation
  • The introduction of mandatory preliminary inspections for all building works
  • The introduction of new mandatory inspections for fire separation in duplexes and townhouses; and
  • Certifiers to be based no more than 200km from the building work they certify.
 
How do the proposed changes affect you?
These proposed changes are still in the consultation phase and have not yet come into effect. However, the proposed changes are likely to include:
  • The need for builders to familiarise themselves with the new system for obtaining building certification and to adjust their administration processes accordingly
  • There may be delays in obtaining certifications due to the introduction of the “cab rank system” and having to wait for the chosen certifier to become available rather than selecting a certifier who is immediately available; and
  • The introduction of the standardised fee structure which may see an increase in the costs of certifications.
 
The Department of Housing and Public Works is currently seeking public feedback on the proposed changes to improve the building certification framework in Queensland. Full details of all proposed changes can be found on the Department’s website at www.hpw.qld.gov.au.
 
McKays will be monitoring the progress of these proposed changes and will issue a further alert once further information is available.
 
For more information about the changes, please contact the team at McKays.