Safer buildings for Queensland through compulsory cladding audit

Construction Laws and Compliance

Over 12,000 buildings in Queensland will have to undergo compulsory audits from 1 October 2018 to figure out if they are at risk from potentially combustible cladding.

How does this affect you?

Building owners and building industry professionals need to be aware of their obligations under new laws introduced by the Queensland Government.

The new laws commence on 1 October 2018.

The compulsory audit will affect a range of buildings, including multi-story residential buildings, shopping centres, private health facilities and certain commercial offices that were constructed, or that had their external wall assembly altered, after 1 January 1994.

The new laws are intended to:

  • identify the extent of potentially combustible cladding on existing private buildings in Queensland;
  • raise awareness as to the risks of potentially combustible cladding.

What you need to do

Building owners must:

  • Step 1: complete an online checklist to identify whether the building may be affected by combustible cladding – by 29 March 2019;
  • Step 2: if the online checklist indicates that the building may be affected by combustible cladding, obtain a building industry professional statement – by 29 May 2019;
  • Step 3: engage a fire engineer to prepare a fire safety risk assessment and a fire engineer statement – by 3 May 2021. This step involves testing of the cladding and an assessment as to whether the existing fire safety measures for the building are adequate, or if rectification is necessary.

In addition, the new laws require that:

  • notices must be displayed at buildings found to be affected by combustible cladding;
  • lot owners and tenants must be provided with fire safety risk assessments; and
  • certain information must be provided to subsequent purchasers.

Building industry professionals and fire engineers must:

  • understand their obligations when engaged by owners to prepare documentation as part of the audit and risk assessment process; and
  • ensure copies of documentation are provided to the owners, QBCC and/or local government within the required timeframes.

Building industry professionals and fire engineers should also:

  • review the terms of their engagement and scope of services in relation to any services undertaken under the new laws;
  • ensure that their insurances are suitable and adequate to extend to activities they undertake under the new laws.

Where to from here

Building owners must meet the costs of complying with the audit, including obtaining the relevant building industry professional statement and, if required, fire engineer statement.

If rectification work is required, the cost of compliance will, at this stage, be borne by building owners.   In some cases, the costs of rectification may be significant.

Earlier this month, the Victorian Government introduced legislation to establish ‘cladding rectification agreements’ (CRA) as a means of funding rectification of non-compliant cladding.  The CRA is an agreement between a council, an owner or owners’ corporation, and a lender, which is designed to provide owners or owners corporations access to affordable loans to finance the rectification.

It remains to be seen whether Queensland will implement funding assistance for the cost of rectifying non-compliant cladding.

Until it does, the starting point remains that owners will bear the cost. We predict, however, that the legislation is going to spark a number of disputes in the foreseeable future as owners attempt to recover these costs from other industry participants, including designers contractors and developers.

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