Master Builders has become aware that both the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) and Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) have commenced a new regime of inspections.

In addition, the ACCC has issued a bulletin on Infinity cables and the VBA has released its findings on the external wall cladding audit.

Members should contact the legal department on (03) 9411 4548 if they have any questions or wish to seek advice on any of these issues.

Consumer Affairs Victoria inspections

The Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012 (the Act) confers powers of inspection on Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) to perform random checks on businesses or investigate a business where there is reason to suspect non-compliance, with the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (DBCA).

Domestic builders should take note as an inspection can take place without warning.

Inspectors appointed under the Act have powers to enter any premises used for business purposes during business hours (or a premise’s regular opening hours).

Inspectors’ powers of inspection are broad and include (amongst other things) the ability to:
• enter a premises without prior notification;
• enter a premises without the owner or occupier being present;
• search and examine anything found on the premises;
• require any document to be produced; and
• remove, make copies or take extracts of documents.
Members should be vigilant in maintaining their records and checking their compliance with the DBCA, particularly in relation to contracts deposits received, invoicing and Domestic Building Insurance requirements.

Victorian Building Authority inspections

Under the proactive building inspections regime, VBA inspectors may visit a building site without prior warning and seek consent from the ‘person in charge’ to conduct an inspection. The VBA suggests they can “provide real time feedback” through site inspections to check compliance with the plans and specifications including the Regulations, NCC and the Australian Standards.
The VBA will not be using specific entry powers under the Building Act 1993 (BA), but will rely on the ‘person in charge’ providing their consent. The VBA’s information sheet on the proactive inspections outlines that:

• builders have the right to not consent to the VBA inspection, but
• that the VBA has powers under the B A to enter the site with 24 hours notice in circumstances where a person does not consent to a site inspection being undertaken.
Infinity cable recall update – ACCC issues new warning on obligations of builders

Members will be aware that in mid-2015 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched a national awareness campaign to back its recall of Infinity or Olsent electrical cabling in homes and business premises.

The campaign “Act now before it’s too late – get your cable checked” concerned Infinity and Olsent-branded cable which failed to meet electrical safety standards due to poor quality insulation (plastic coating). Testing found the insulation on the “TPS” and “orange round” range of cables will become brittle prematurely, which may present a safety hazard if the cables are disturbed and the insulation breaks. Cables exposed to prolonged high temperatures will degrade at a faster rate. Once the insulation is brittle, physical contact with the cables could dislodge the insulation and lead to electric shock or possibly fires.

The ACCC advises that up to 40,000 residential and business properties may be affected and recommends that wiring be checked by a licensed electrician in properties purchased, renovated or had electrical work such as appliance installation completed between 2010 and 2013.

Master Builders recommends that members who have not already taken action to determine whether the non-complying cabling was used in their projects between 2010 -2013 should do so as a matter of priority.

The ACCC has now issued a bulletin that states that “if you installed Infinity cables and have not yet remediated them or alerted someone to ensure the cables are remediated under the supplier’s recall, you could:
• be issued Rectification Orders by the electrical safety or building regulator in your state or territory, or be sanctioned in other ways
• be prosecuted, fined, or possibly lose your licence if you ignore those sanctions
• be held financially liable for property damage, injuries, or loss of life because you failed to alert the home owner or the appropriate regulator
• be responsible for the loss of a life.”
The bulletin that outlines the ACCC’s position on the obligations of builders and electricians under the recall can be found here.
VBA External Wall Cladding Audit

On Wednesday 17 February, the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) released the findings of the External Wall Cladding Audit which examined 170 high rise residential and public buildings in the Melbourne CBD and immediately surrounding suburbs. The audit found that 51 per cent of buildings were non-compliant in the use of external wall cladding materials.

The VBA will now commence a further audit which will cover:

• Other buildings of practitioners identified with significant non-compliance in the VBA Audit;
• Buildings that were outside the initial scope of the VBA Audit but which otherwise came to the VBA’s attention; and
• A targeted sample of sample buildings in collaboration with local councils across all Victorian municipalities.

A copy of the VBA media release and the full audit report can be found here.