Following a recent State Government inquiry, there are changes imminent for the Queensland Building Services Authority (“BSA”) and some of the legislation that it’s responsible for.  

Key Points

  • The name and operating structure of the BSA will change;
  • New processes will be developed in an effort to resolve domestic building disputes at an early stage;
  • Section 42 of the Queensland Building Services Authority Act 1991 (“the QBSA Act”) will be amended to clarify when a licence is needed for carrying out “building work”. 

Background

In August 2012, the Queensland Parliament passed a motion that the Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee (“the Committee”) inquire and report on the operation and performance of the BSA.

The Committee published its report into the BSA in November 2012 (“the Report”)[1] and made some 41 recommendations for change.

The responsible government department i.e. the Department of Housing and Public Works (“DHPW”) appointed an independent review panel to assist the Minister in forming the government’s response to the Report.

The Government’s repose to the Report was recently tabled in the parliament (“the Response”)[2].

Implementation

The above changes will be implemented by way of a ‘ten point action plan’, details of which are contained in the Response, and will be directed by an Implementation Committee. 

In summary, the changes will be undertaken in a staged approach with the transition from the BSA to a new entity, the appointment of a governing board, and the appointment of a Commissioner the immediate priorities.

It is expected that the governing board will be appointed before the end of 2013 and the remaining changes to be implemented by the end of 2014.

Summary of the Response

BSA to become QBCC

The BSA will become a new entity, namely the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (“QBCC”).  The QBCC will have a Commissioner (or CEO) who will report to a Governing Board which in turn will report to the Minister for the DHPW.  

The QBCC is to develop an organisational structure which has general managers for each business division i.e. licensing, dispute resolution and Home Warranty Scheme (“HWS”), reporting to the Commissioner. The operations of these business divisions will be “firewalled” below the general managers in an effort to create a clear and transparent division between them.

Building Codes Queensland (“BCQ”)

BCQ will remain under the control of DHPW. It is proposed that responsibility for registering plumbers and drainers and pool safety inspectors be transferred to the QBCC. Consideration will be given to transferring all currently registered building trade contractors to the QBCC and whether there is a public benefit in registering other building related occupations that are not currently registered.  

Training for Inspectors

In addition to ongoing training for Inspectors, a “Standards and Tolerances Manual” for domestic building work will be developed by the QBCC to assist Inspectors undertaking domestic inspections to make informed decisions on whether building work requires rectification.

Inspectors will also be provided with dispute resolution training to assist with the development of skills to negotiate an agreed outcome between homeowners and builders.

Early Intervention in Disputes

In an effort to resolve domestic building disputes at an early stage, the Implementation Committee will develop a cost effective “rapid domestic adjudication” model. While the government believes there may be some cost to participants in this process, it also believes that it should lead to earlier resolution of disputes, an improvement in construction quality over time and less disputes being dealt with by the Queensland Commercial and Administrative Tribunal.

Building Certifiers

Amendments will be made to the QBSA Act and Regulations to ensure that all parties involved in the design, construction and approval processes for building work e.g. building certifiers, are held accountable for their areas of involvement with regard to unlawful or defective work.

Mandatory form of Contract

The Committee recommended that legislation be amended to introduce a mandatory standard building contract for domestic building work and require contractors to use this contract as part of their licensing conditions. This proposal was not supported by the Government. It is proposed that the QBCC will review the current suite of domestic building contracts with a view to providing a fair and equitable base for consumers and licensees.

Legal Advice

In its review of domestic building contracts the QBCC will give consideration of a recommendation that homeowners seek independent legal advice prior to entering into a domestic building contract. 

Home Warranty Scheme

The Implementation Committee, with input from the insurance industry, will consider whether there are benefits to a “tiered” approach to the level of cover under the HWS i.e. allowing homeowners to select a level of cover based on risk, type of work undertaken etc. This will involve a consideration of likely premium costs and whether the type of work currently covered by the HWS should be extended. 

In addition, a process will be established within the QBCC whereby consumers can request a review of a decision with respect to the HWS. 

Need for a Licence – Section 42 of the QBSA Act

Section 42 of the QBSA Act, which provides that “a person must not carry out, or undertake to carry out, building work…unless that person holds a contractor’s licence of the appropriate class under this Act”, will be revised to make it clear that there is no breach of the Act if the “building work” is carried out by an appropriately licensed builder.

The Government acknowledged that this section may at times lead to unintended consequences.  An example given was where a company is established to deliver a project which includes building work (e.g. under a contract with the Government). The current view of the BSA is that section 42 requires the company to be licensed even though the company will contract with a registered building company to perform the building work.

Disciplinary Decisions

A process will be established within the QBCC whereby licensees can request a review of a decision in relation to disciplinary matters. The QBCC must, when making its decision give reasons as to why it has banned, disqualified or excluded a licensee.

The Commission will consider the need for reform regarding:

  1. the current demerit points system with a view to ensuring that the penalty is commensurate with the offence; and
  2. the implementation of audit programs to:
    1. ensure that disciplinary decisions are made objectively and consistently; and
    2. ensure that licensees comply with disciplinary decisions.

Mandatory CPD for Licensees

The Government did not adopt a recommendation by the Committee that the Minister investigate the introduction of a mandatory Continuing Professional Development (“CPD”) scheme for all licensees and to link such a scheme to the eligibility requirements for holding a licence.

Advisory Groups

Two separate advisory groups will be formed i.e. a consumer reference group and an industry reference group, to provide input to the Governing Board of the QBBC. 

NOLS

The Government adopted a recommendation that the Minister take the recommendations contained in the Report into consideration before agreeing to any timeframes for the introduction of the draft Regulations stemming from the National Occupational Licensing System (“NOLS”).

Conclusion

The proposed changes to the structure of the BSA and the legislation overseen by it are significant and it will take some time before the detail and full impact of the changes are known.

In the meantime it is important to be aware of the general nature of the changes and to keep them in mind when planning future business ventures.