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What is domestic building work in Victoria?

An Overview on Domestic Building Work

In Victoria, the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic) regulates contracts relating to the carrying out of domestic building works, resolution for domestic building disputes, and insurance requirements of builders carrying domestic building work.

Part of the statutory objectives of the Victorian domestic building legislation, Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic), is:

  • to provide for the maintenance of proper standards in the carrying out of domestic building work that is fair to both builders and building orders; and
  • to enable dispute involving domestic building work to be resolved as quickly, as efficiently and as cheaply as is possible.

This article addresses the following questions:

After setting out when the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic) applies, the article then briefly explores the frequently asked question, what are the statutory warranties that apply to domestic building work?

When does the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic) apply to building work?

Generally, the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic) applies to disputes involving a domestic building contract or the carrying out of domestic building work.

If a particular domestic building work or dispute falls within the ambit of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic), then the appropriate jurisdiction to resolve disputes arising from those works is the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). The dispute then follows particular procedural requirements required by VCAT’s direction and Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic), which may involve requiring a referral from the Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) before the parties may commence formal VCAT proceedings.

Read More: For further information, “What is the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995?” provides an overview on the legislative framework of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995.

What is a domestic building work?

Generally, if a particular building work fits within the statutory definition of “domestic building work” of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic), then the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic) will apply.

Some domestic building work include:

  • erection or construction of a home;
  • renovation, alteration, extension, improvement or repair of a home;
  • demolition or removal of a home;
  • any work such as landscaping, paving, erection or construction of retaining structures, driveways, fencing, garages, workshops, swimming pools or spas that is to be carried out together with the renovation, alteration, extension, improvement or repair of a home;
  • any site work, or preparations of plans or specifications for the carrying out of work, regarding the above list.

Since the Victorian Supreme Court decision in Burbank Australia Pty Ltd v Owners Corp PS 447493 [2015] VSC 160, the statutory application of domestic building work also extends to multi-apartment developments.

What is the statutory meaning of home?

It is notable that the statutory definition of domestic building relates to the term, home. The term, home, carries a statutory meaning within the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic). Generally, a home is defined to mean any residential premises, and also includes any part of commercial or industrial premises that is used as residential premises.

There are also exceptions to the general meaning of home. Those exceptions are prescribed by the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic) and Domestic Building Contracts Regulations 2017 (Vic).

What building works are excluded from the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic)?

Some works excluded from the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic) may include:

  • any work in relation to a farm building (whether actual or proposed);
  • any work in relation to a building intended to be used only for business purposes, or to accommodate animals;
  • any work involved with obtaining foundations data relating to a building site;
  • the transporting of a building from one site to another.

This means that works that are excluded will not be within the jurisdiction or ambit of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic). There are other types of work also excluded under the regulations.

Read More: For more information about domestic building regulations, “What is the Domestic Building Contracts Regulations 2017?” provides an introductory overview to the Domestic Building Contracts Regulations.

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Other topics that relate to domestic building work concerning the variation or changes to domestic building contracts, include:

For an overview on technical requirements in constructions and the National Construction Code, other legal topics explored can also be found:

What is a domestic building dispute?

The Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic) applies to domestic building disputes arising between parties.

The kinds of disputes that may be a domestic building dispute, include disputes relating to a domestic building contract or the carrying out of domestic building work, between:

  • building owner, and a builder;
  • building owner, and a building practitioner (as defined in the Building Act 1993 (Vic)).
  • building owner, and a subcontractor;
  • building owner, and an engineer;
  • builder and another builder, building practitioner, subcontractor or, an insurer.

A question may arise, what is a domestic building contract? A domestic building contract is a term that is given meaning by statute.

What is a domestic building contract?

In summary, the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic) defines domestic building contract as:

a contract to carry out, or to arrange or manage the carrying out of, domestic building work, other than a contract between a builder and subcontractor.

There is also a difference between a domestic building contract, and a major domestic building contract. The difference between the two types of contracts is that a major domestic building contractor is a domestic building contract that has a contract price that is fixed higher than the amount prescribed by the regulations. The current prescribed amount set by regulation is $10,000.

Notes and Further Information on Contract Law

What are the statutory warranties that apply to domestic building work?

The Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 (Vic) also has particular statutory warranties that apply to building work.

In summary, the warranties that applies to work carried out under a domestic building contract, include:

Statutory WarrantiesSummary
Proper and WorkmanlikeThe building work will be carried out in a proper and workmanlike manner and in accordance with the plans and specifications set out in the contract.
Materials SuppliedAll materials to be supplied by the builder for use in the building work will be good and suitable for the purpose for which they are used.
ComplianceBuilding work will be carried out in accordance with, and comply with, all laws and legal requirements.
Reasonable Care and SkillBuilding work will be carried out with reasonable care and skill and will be completed by the date specified by the contract.
Suitable for OccupationIf the building work consists of an erection or construction of a home, or is building work intended to renovate, alter, extend, improve or repair a home to a stage suitable for occupation, the building home will be suitable for occupation at the time the work is completed.
Fit for Particular PurposeIf the contract states the particular purpose for which building work is required, and the owner relies on a builder’s skill and judgement, the builder warrants that the work and any material used in carrying out the work will be reasonably fit for that purpose.

The statutory warranties continue to run with a building even if there is a new owner after a domestic building work has been carried out. This situation that a new owner may rely on the statutory warranties may be viewed as a carve-out of the traditional common law principles relating to privity of contract.

Domestic Building Contracts Regulations 2017 | Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 | Domestic Building Contract | Major Domestic Building Contract | Variation (Owner) | Variation (Builder) | Domestic Building Insurance | Progress Payments | Variations (General) | Termination | Repudiation | Causation | Damages |

If you are looking for legal expertise and have any questions, connect with an author or a member of our building and construction team.

Do you need legal advice? Call us on (03) 5331 1244 to get in touch and arrange an appointment with one of our lawyers.

You can also connect with us by filling out your details and telling us about your information for legal advice below:

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Authored by:
Ben Franklin, Managing Partner (LIV Accredited Specialist – Property Law), &
Matthew Tran, Lawyer.

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