Room for your views on building reforms

Nobody could accuse Fair Trading of not listening – or at least asking us for our opinions.  Whether or not they listen will only be known when legislation is drafted.

NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts has announced a ‘broad and comprehensive reform’ of home building legislation and released an issues paper for public and industry consultation.

“This reform will produce practical initiatives to cut unnecessary costs and remove obstacles restricting building in NSW, while also protecting consumers,” the Minister said.

“Our first priority is to create a framework to minimise the chances of problems arising during home building and ensure consumers are protected if things do go wrong.”

A recent UNSW survey revealed that 85 percent of strata buildings that were aware of problems said they included defects, so you’d be forgiven for thinking “building regulations? What a good idea!”

The discussion paper Reform of the Home Building Act 1989 is available on Fair Trading’s website HERE. It’s long and very complicated but, for me, the key phrase buried in the middle of the press release refers to FT’s ongoing program of cutting red tape.

Considering that red tape trimming has so far seen the window for defect claims reduced, followed by an announcement that strata lawyers are going to be reined in, you’d worry that protecting consumers may be far from Fair Trading’s first priority.

There are no easy fixes in strata but there’s something fundamentally wrong with a system that allows cowboys to build shoddy home units then disappear into bankruptcy (only to reappear as ‘phoenix’ companies).

And if the government want to curb lawyers and cut unnecessary costs, chain up the attack-dog barristers hired to bash ripped-off owners in court, just to prevent them getting what they paid for.

To Mr Roberts’ credit, all these issues and many more are acknowledged in the discussion paper. Look it up and have your say.

My response will be simple: cut all the red tape you want, but you don’t encourage confidence in an industry by making it easier for its customers to be cheated.

What do you reckon would fix building standards in Australia? Find out what others are saying in the Flat Chat Forum.

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