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Defective Domestic Building Works: Knowing the Limits

3 min read

09 Jun 2022

A brief guide to limitation periods potentially relevant in Victorian defective domestic building disputes.

When it comes to domestic building defect disputes, having knowledge and understanding of the statutory limitation periods for making a claim is paramount. If key dates are overlooked or a relevant deadline is missed, this may be detrimental to part if not all of your claim.

These limitations may prevent you from being able to bring a claim against a liable party and/or it’s insurer to get defective building works rectified. Not being entitled to bring a claim or commence proceedings to seek compensation for your loss and damage will mean a financial loss to you.

If you are in discussions with a builder about defective building works you should consider your options carefully. Likewise, builders and other industry practitioners who may have potential claims and counterclaims should know all the relevant time limits.

Whether you are a new homeowner, an apartment owner or a strata manager or you’ve purchased a property less than 10-years old or a newly renovated home you should know the time limits regarding building defects.

Commencing a building action against a builder

A claim for defective building work must be lodged within 10 years from the date of the Certificate of Occupancy. If a Certificate of Occupancy is not issued (or it is subsequently cancelled or varied), then it is 10 years from the date of the Certificate of Final Inspection.

Recent case law has confirmed that where neither an Occupancy Permit nor Certificate of Final Inspection are issued, the time limit for bringing an action is currently 6 years from the date on which the cause of action accrued.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Exceptions to the above may apply for cladding building actions.

A ‘building action’ has a legal definition and means an action (including a counter claim) for damages for loss or damage arising out of or concerning defective building work.

Plumbing building action

A claim in relation to defective plumbing works are to be lodged within 10 years from the date on which a plumbing compliance certificate was issued.

IMPORTANT NOTE: for a claim to be considered ‘lodged’, an owner must have commenced legal proceedings at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). Making an application to the Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) body does not count in stopping the 10-year timer. If you are nearing the end of a limitation period, whether 10 years or less, please urgently seek legal advice to ensure your potential claim is not missed.

Domestic Building Insurance Claims

A homeowner should notify the domestic building insurer (previously referred to as Home Warranty Insurer”) within 6 years from the earlier of the completion date or termination of relevant domestic building contract for claims relating to structural, and all other defects.

Property owners with minor defects or non-structural defects should notify the domestic building insurer within 2 years. Two years is calculated from the earlier of the completion date or the date termination of relevant domestic building contract.

Contact one of our building and construction lawyers if you require advice on how to lodge a claim, whether your policy has been triggered, and the prospects of success.

Plumber’s Insurance

If you find any plumbing defects, an owner should notify the plumber or builder within 6 years from the date of the plumbing certificate of compliance for the relevant works. In the event no plumbing compliance certificate issued, then 6 years from the date the plumber stopped carrying out the work.

Note: Notifying the relevant plumber of the defects directly, is also considered to be notifying the plumber’s insurer.

Other limitation periods

In addition to the above, there may also be other relevant limitation periods applicable to your matter and it is recommended that legal advice be sought in respect to same.

Is your Claim within time?

If you think you might be running out of time or are unsure about whether you can claim against a builder, get advice from an expert construction lawyer. This will ensure you have considered all avenues available and identify the best way of resolving the building dispute.

Our Building and Construction lawyers are experienced and skilled in advising and resolving building disputes. Our team are well versed in the requirements and relevant time limitations when considering commencing legal proceedings.

Building and construction disputes are unique to other types of litigation and the legislation and building dispute resolution process differs greatly. Our building team have extensive experience in the handling building defect disputes and understand the legal and commercial nuances in the building industry.

We ensure that your claim is prepared accurately and comprehensively for the best chance of success. We act for both landowners and building professionals.

Call us on 1300 907 335 to get assistance from a building and construction lawyer.

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