Owner-builders require the Building Practitioners Board’s consent. Permits are issued by building surveyors, who inspect work and issue the occupancy certificate. Architects are useful for planning. The Bushfire Building Standard applies in bushfire-prone areas. Building contracts imply warranties over the quality of workmanship and materials. Limits exist on progress payments. Home warranty insurance offers limited cover. Check your builder has public liability insurance. Definitions vary for the finish date or completion of works. Wrongfully terminating a contract may make the consumer liable for damages to the builder. The Building Advice and Conciliation Service Victoria can help with complaints about builders. The Domestic Building List of VCAT hears disputes and may require compulsory conferences. VCAT may award costs.


Mark Attard

Partner, Clyde & Co.

Completing building works

Last updated

1 July 2021


It is important for consumers to ascertain when the contract requires the works to be concluded and compare that date to when the works are actually completed by the builder. Consumers should carefully review their contracts to ascertain what stage and quality the builder must achieve for the works to be concluded.

In some contracts the finish date is described as ‘practical completion’ and it is defined as the stage when works have been substantially completed except for minor defects.

In other contracts the completion of works is determined by the building surveyor issuing an occupancy permit or Certificate of Final Inspection.

Most contracts provide that the works are deemed complete when the consumer assumes occupation of the home. Accordingly, consumers should not hurry to move in, especially in circumstances where a certificate of occupancy has not yet been issued by the building surveyor.

Section 42 of the DBC Act provides that a builder must not demand final payment until the work has been completed in accordance with the plans and specifications and the consumer receives an occupancy permit or certificate of final completion, issued by the building surveyor.

Consumers should keep a careful record of all claims, documentation and correspondence generated by the building project.

Ensure any trade certificates, warranties, manuals and keys are provided on completion of the work.

Defects liability period

Most contracts provide a period, usually 13 weeks from the completion of the work, during which the consumer can require the builder to return and repair defects. Not all contracts contain such a provision; check your contract and ensure you can require the builder to return and repair defects.

Once consumers assume occupation of their new home, they should list all defects and provide these lists to the builder in accordance with the provisions in the contract. Be wary of assuming occupation in cases where major defects exist. It may be difficult to get the builder’s cooperation after final payment.

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