Council has a responsibility to the community to ensure the built environment is safe for use and/or occupation. This includes investigating unsafe or illegal buildings and issuing the appropriate Notice or Order to resolve the issues.
There are a number of factors that may make a building unsafe such as time, weather, natural disaster or an accident. Council will inspect the works to determine the issue and work with the owner to repair or demolish the building to make it safe.
Illegal Building Works
Illegal building works occur when a Building Permit is not issued on construction work that should have a permit. Carrying out works without a permit can compromise the safety of occupants and cause problems with insurance, reselling and other legal matters.
A building permit cannot be issued retrospectively for the works already carried out, therefore you cannot obtain an Occupancy Permit or Final Certificate to say the works are compliant. It often costs more to resolve the illegal works due to the reports required to determine it is compliant than what it would have cost to get a Building Permit before starting the works. Because works have been carried out without the required permits being in place, administration fees, structural investigations, engineer reports and building reports can be required, making the process quite expensive.
Reporting an Unsafe Building or Illegal Building Works
While many people feel uncomfortable reporting unsafe buildings or works that may be or have been constructed without a building permit, it is important to notify Council so that we can work with the owners to ensure the issue is resolved and safety of the building occupiers or users is not compromised.
Once it has been determined there is an issue, Council will commence the appropriate enforcement and work with the owner to try and resolve the issue with a favourable outcome to all parties involved.
Please be assured any complaints or queries remain anonymous and your details are not provided to the property owners.
Building Permits Issued by a Private Building Surveyor
Where works are issued by a private surveyor, any issues relating to those works should be referred to the relevant surveyor or the Victorian Building Authority.
A Building Notice is the first step in the enforcement process. It is a legally regulated document issued under the Building Act 1993 which identifies compliance or safety issues for a property or building. All building work within Victoria must comply with the Building Act 1993 (the Act) and Building Regulations 2018 (the Regulations). Council’s Municipal Building Surveyor (MBS) will issue a Building Notice when works on a property are suspected to not comply with the Act and Regulations and may be unsafe or illegal. This includes work undertaken without a permit or works that do not comply with an issued Building Permit.
A Building Notice will be issued to the owner of the property, not against the builder, developer, or other contractors. The owner of the property will be requested to justify (show cause) why the building work should remain. If the owner does not respond to a Building Notice in time, they may be given a Building Order.
Further information: Building Information Sheet - Building Notices(PDF, 245KB)
A Building Order is an escalation the enforcement process. It is a legally regulated document issued under the Building Act 1993. A Building Order is a direction to ensure works comply with the Building Act 1993 (the Act) and Building Regulations 2018 (the Regulations). An owner will receive a Building Order from Council’s Municipal Building Surveyor (MBS) when works on a property are considered to be in breach of the Act and Regulations.
Building orders come in several different versions including: Building Order - General, Building Order - Minor Works, Stop Works Orders, Emergency Orders.
Where an owner fails to comply with a Building Order, the MBS is empowered to consider prosecution. Non-compliance with Building Orders may result in substantial fines and court orders for property owners if guilt is established by the Court.
Further information: Building Information Sheet - Building Orders(PDF, 232KB)
Building Order to Stop Works
Where Council's Municipal Building Surveyor (MBS) has reason to believe there is a contravention of the Building Act 1993 (the Act) and Building Regulations 2018 (the Regulations), or there is a safety issue, a Stop Work Order may be issued. The MBS requires the owner and builder to stop work to either prevent further contravention, or to stop work that is considered to be unsafe.
For example, the MBS may be advised that a building project is proceeding without a permit and they would then issue a 'Stop Work Order'. Failing to comply with a Stop Work Order may result in prosecution.
Emergency Orders are issued by the Municipal Building Surveyor (MBS) where a building or land poses an immediate danger to the occupiers of the building or land and any other persons or property.
During a building project, a dispute may arise between the builder and home owner(s). If you become involved in such a dispute, you should attempt to resolve the issue directly with the other party before taking any further action.
If the issue remains unresolved after you've attempted to resolve it on your own, you can go to Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) and lodge an online application for dispute resolution. The DBDRV is a service established by the Victorian Government to provide free advice and assistance to resolve domestic building disputes. The service is a joint initiative of the Victorian Building Authority and Consumer Affairs Victoria. The DBDRV provides services for building dispute resolution without the cost and time often associated with courts and tribunals, and has the power to issue legally binding dispute resolution orders and certificates.
For further information, visit Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria at www.dbdrv.vic.gov.au or call the Building Information Line on 1300 557 559.
Independent Domestic Building Inspections
If you believe that some of the building work on your project is defective, you can apply to the Victorian Building Authority for an independent inspection.
An inspector will come and have a look at the project and prepare a written report for the builder making recommendations for any corrective action. The inspector cannot direct the builder to rectify any work on the project but if the builder fails to follow the recommendations, he or she may be referred to the Building Practitioners Board for disciplinary action. The owner can also initiate a hearing at the Building Practitioners Board.
Applications for an inspection need to be made on a form available from the Victorian Building Authority. There is a fee for the service and there may be additional expenses if specialist investigations are required.
Making a Complaint about a Building Practitioner
Building practitioners include registered and unregistered builders, private and municipal building surveyors, demolition contractors and some other specialist contractors.
Anyone involved in a building project can make a complaint to the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) about the conduct of a building practitioner. The VBA takes all complaints seriously and will assess your complaint and determine if a formal investigation is necessary.
To make a complaint about a registered practitioner’s professional conduct, you will need to lodge this at VBA's online customer service portal.
Further information about the VBA complaints process is available at www.vba.vic.gov.au/consumers/complaints/complaints-process.
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
There is also an avenue of appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). It is recommended that you first attempt to resolve issues through BACV, as this has been specifically established to provide quick and easy access to dispute resolution services.
The dispute can be heard by the Domestic Building List at VCAT, which will try to resolve the dispute and can order that defective work be rectified, terms of a contract are varied, or that compensation is paid.
Where disputes are for sums of less than $10,000, they will be heard through the Civil Claims List at VCAT. There is an application fee and application forms can be obtained from VCAT.