Advice for consumers: What you need to know about builders

Advice for consumers: What you need to know about builders

For those who are looking to hire a builder to complete a project on their residential or commercial property, there are a few things you should be aware of. This useful information will give you a more comprehensive understanding of the building and construction industry and ensure you make an informed decision when deciding on the right builder for you.

The Victorian Building Authority

In Victoria, the building industry is regulated by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA). This regulatory body is in place to ensure a certain standard of quality control is being implemented by practitioners across the board, and that they’re adhering to the correct safety standards and regulations. This is ultimately to protect the health and safety of the general public.

What a registered builder is legally allowed to work on vs an unregistered builder

Before agreeing to hire a builder, it’s always important to make certain they’re registered with the VBA, as this will ultimately determine what types of projects they’re allowed to take on. Some un-registered builders will be vague and downright misleading at times when it comes this matter, so make sure you ask to see their photo ID card. More on that later.

In Victoria, builders must be registered to complete the following:

  • Undergo domestic building work that exceeds the cost of $5,000 – including the cost of all materials and labour
  • Offer multiple types of building work (e.g. plastering, bricklaying, painting, carpentry etc.)
  • Undergo restumping, re-blocking, remove a home, demolishing work, or any other building project that requires a permit

If a builder is not registered and attempts one of the above, they’re liable to cop repercussions from the VBA, including a fine. From a consumer perspective, it means you may be receiving inferior, or dodgy workmanship that will most likely lead to more costs to you further down the track. This is why the VBA is so strict on enforcing its building registration to ensure a satisfactory standard is adhered to at all times.

How to determine whether a builder is officially registered

All registered practitioners are required to carry a photo ID card that is issued by the VBA. This card displays the type of work the individual is eligible to perform and whether they have an up-to-date registration. All ID cards issued from 1 September 2016 onwards should be branded with VBA logo. Any practitioner with an ID issued before this date will have a Building Practitioners Board branded card until their next yearly renewal date. Only VBA branded cards will be considered valid as of the 1st of September 2017.

Alternatively, you can determine whether a builder is registered using the VBA online directory.


Consumers looking to become an owner builder

An owner builder is an individual who takes complete responsibility for any domestic building work performed on their own land. This includes the acquisition of permits, supervising or undergoing all building work and of course ensuring the workmanship meets the necessary standards and regulations.

When the value of the domestic work you intend to complete exceeds $16,000, then you must obtain a certificate of consent from the VBA. When deliberating on whether they should issue a certificate, you will be evaluating on the following points:

  • Whether you have the necessary knowledge and skills to undergo the project as an owner builder
  • Whether you intend to live in the property once completed
  • Whether you own, or co-own land where a previous building permit has been granted in the function of an owner builder in the last 5 years

A fee of $96.18 applies for all certificate of consent submissions and this fee is non-refundable, regardless of whether you are approved or denied. Keep in mind that any domestic building projects that exceed $16,000 will also require the necessary insurance from a contractor, builder or tradesperson. Make sure you also read up on our tips for owner builders to learn more.

For additional builder consumer resources, or information on becoming an owner builder, please click on the provided links.