Building inspection reports and accurate diagnostics sit at the centre of successful defect rectification processes. Defects have traditionally been diagnosed via a general defects or building inspection report. General reports usually constitute a consultant — who isn’t an engineer — walking around the property, making general observations.
However, as the prevalence and complexity of defects has grown, along with increasing legislative attention to suboptimal building work, this style of reporting is no longer enough to provide owners with a comprehensive snapshot of underlying issues.
Best practice diagnostics for owners and committees of newly constructed buildings includes pricing into the budget general building inspection reports and precision reports. Precision reporting is technical reporting of all core building systems and should be planned for within the first AGM.
Comprehensive precision reporting for core building systems includes:
While initiating precision reporting upfront is expensive, it can save you and your community significantly in the long run and is the most thorough way to diagnose defects. If owners and the committee choose not to undertake the full scope of precision reporting due to cost limitations, at a minimum, committees should undertake precision reporting for the systems most likely to suffer from defects.
The systems most likely to suffer from defects are:
- Mechanical and ventilation
- Fire protection
Seems overly cautious? Think again…
Committing and arranging building inspection reports and precision reporting from your first AGM may seem overly cautious and an unnecessary expense. But the rate of defects in newly constructed buildings in Australia is prolific. Research shows more than 70 per cent of Australian buildings constructed within the last two decades have defects. What’s more, some states, like NSW, have a defect rate of almost 97 per cent. The prevalence makes accurately diagnosing and reporting your defects within the statutory warranty time frame critical.
Keep in mind, generally, owners and committees only have two-years to diagnose and start proceedings. There are circumstances where defects have longer statutory warranties, such as six years when they are classified as major. However, the definition of what constitutes a major defect is often contested and very narrow, leaving very few defects to fall into this category.
Understanding the building inspection report’s recommendations
When general building inspection reports and precision reporting is complete, the committee should meet to discuss, work through, and review the recommendations that have been made. It is important to remember that precision reporting is highly technical and normally can’t be understood by people who aren’t experts in the field.
The committee should arrange for the authors of the reports to attend information nights where all owners can come and ask questions. Here, the experts and authors can work through the reports and communicate the findings; this town hall-style of meeting should be applied to all expert reports in the process, including legal.
Once the committee and the collective of owners understand what the core issues are, the committee will then approach the original owner to start the negotiation process. This step is referred to as serving the defects on the original owner, developer, or builder.
Be prepared — multiple reports could be required
Owners and committees are often shocked by the magnitude of reporting for a rectification process. Most owners work under the assumption that once the first round of reports is done, that’s it. However, building defect reports and precision reporting, should you have a problem, will often require multiple versions.
For example, when a specialist report identifies a problem, the report will often come back with a recommendation for further destructive investigation. This might require taking down walls, bringing up floors, or other forms of work to fully identify the extent of the issue.
What’s more, when legal proceedings start, your legal team will normally take the building reports and turn them into litigation reports which constitute another separate round of reports and expenses.