Are Australia’s Cities Outgrowing Its Construction Legislation?
journal contributionposted on 29.10.2019, 09:41 by Matthew Bell
This article examines the way in which legislative regulation seeks to enhance consumer protection in relation to the procurement of residential construction work. Its focus is upon reforms to the statutory regime for such protection in Victoria which were enacted during 2016–17. These reforms are primarily directed towards reducing the incidence of defective work through the tightening of ‘quality assurance’ provisions, such as ensuring that work is carried out by qualified practitioners, and of ‘safety net’ measures such as conciliation processes to avoid the escalation of disputes. The article analyses these reforms by reference to identified problems relating to defective residential construction work. These range from high-profile incidents such as the 2014 cladding-related fire at the Lacrosse Apartments in Melbourne (and the fire, with similar causes yet tragically more disastrous consequences, at the Grenfell Tower in London in 2017), through to more mundane — yet, frequently occurring — problems such as poor workmanship and behaviours. The article concludes that the Victorian reforms are clearly directed towards many of these identified problems. It cautions, however, that the success of the reforms in contributing to an effective consumer protection regime may be limited because other factors contributing to the widespread incidence of defects remain unaddressed. These factors include gaps such as the non-prescriptive nature of many of the regulatory requirements, and the limited capacity of project participants to assimilate the detailed requirements of the regime, and for regulators to enforce it.