Is the VBA Beyond Redemption?

There were high expectations after the formation of the VBA over three years ago, and while it was hoped this new authority would consider, aspire and strive, instead it has failed to listen and consider – a fact which now questions its very survival.

The VBA’s revolving door of key personnel adds to its inability to function credibly as a regulatory authority simply because the personnel lack the technical prowess to understand the industry needs and requirements. In all organisations, there must be balance.

Furthermore, the insurance industry appears to have significant sway in how the building regime operates, as their concern of water ingress claims has seen change without consultation over a very short period.

In fact, the VBA’s formation was based on the findings of this KPMG document titled Establishment of the Victorian Building Authority Final Report. Sadly, this report and its findings were not followed, and it seems it was fundamentally flawed from the outset due to lack of understanding of the building industry.

The building industry cannot sustain more years of trial and error as many consider it a basket case even at this time.

It is time the Andrews Government took stock, and the time to listen to those at the coalface who fund the continual misadventures before it’s too late to redeem the existing framework.

In a recent end-of-year message, the VBA presented platitudes of achievements to support their position, which included the fact that they are working closely with the warranty insurer. This position can only be seen as a direct conflict of interest to the building industry.

If the current last resort warranty system introduced in 2002 that manages the industry and dictates the course of action for both builders and consumers was in fact replaced with a genuine warranty and management regime, we would see a marked difference in the outcome in the event of a dispute.

The current regime’s claims criteria are narrow enough that the regime itself only represents a minor percentage of building disputes, leaving the vast majority in the wilderness without a shred of protection.

An appropriate warranty regime is fundamental to a compliant industry, as it would make all builders – including commercial builders – accountable from the outset. This in turn would make those builders consider their actions in terms of quality, the products they use, and the subcontractors they employ. In other words, many of the woes we face today would become self-regulating.

Dividing the industry between the commercial and domestic builders as the current regime allows only provides a “divide and conquer” regime. This suits the trade associations, but it is devastating for domestic builders and their consumers. The consumers of commercial builders, meanwhile, are left with absolutely nothing in terms of a warranty.

The commercial builders do not contribute a cent to consumer protection, which is an appalling situation by any measure.

Every major jurisdiction except Victoria registers its subcontractors, but HIA the believe they would lose membership if that were the case. As a result, government sits on the path of redemption and does nothing.

Recently, without any consultation with the plumbing or building industry, the VBA forced stupid changes to overflow relief for fascia gutters.

Fascia gutter installation has been installed in the same manner for well over 100 years in Australia. With this change, we now have to clip the gutter 10 millimeters off the fascia board, once again missing the root cause and bypassing the technical prowess of the industry at the coalface.

The root cause is in fact non-complaint installation, a lack of regulatory auditing, and poor licensing regimes.

This whole change took place in a covert process driven by misinformed insurance industry heavy hitters.

The issue of legionella in solar hot water booster systems, which has potential to threaten lives of residents in apartment buildings throughout Melbourne, remains a low priority for the VBA and will continue to languish for another three years before any change occurs. Once again, this clearly illustrates who is wagging the dog and demonstrates the skewed processes the VBA engages in.

There is reason to be very concerned with the legislative changes that took effect on September 1, 2016 regarding show cause notices. Show cause notices are serious documents that need to be treated as such, and one would be well advised to seek legal advice on point if a notice is received.

So is the VBA beyond redemption or can its culture change to present a regulatory regime that will benefit a pleading industry and support our consumers with a warranty they can rely on in the event of a failure?

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