‘No Accountability’ for Building Surveyors 6

Thursday, August 6th, 2015
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A vocal critic of building industry regulation in Victoria has condemned the supervision of building surveyors in that state, saying the system lacks accountability and does not punish those who fail to discharge their responsibilities in an adequate manner.

Despite acknowledging that the majority of surveyors do the right thing, Builders Collective of Australia national president Phil Dwyer said ‘a certain element’ of people were giving the industry a bad name through ‘cosy’ relationships with developers and were not being held to account by authorities.

“Basically, there is no accountability,” Dwyer said when asked about the regulation of building surveyors in Victoria. “There does seem to be areas and projects where we have found that situations [of inadequate work being certified] exist. [But] nothing seems to ever happen. There doesn’t appear to be any accountability at this time.

“As with any profession, the majority of people and the majority of surveyors probably do a very good job. But there is a certain element that seem to have these cosy arrangements and they let the whole industry down.”

Dwyer’s comments follow the release of a Fairfax Media examination of data last week which found that building surveyors throughout the state had been found guilty of more than 700 misconduct claims since 2009 and that many had ignored illegal building work, overlooked serious fire risks or issued occupancy permits in cases where the building was not fit for occupation.

That analysis, in turn, followed the collapse of a building site in Mount Waverley along with the release in May of a damning Auditor General’s report which said that the building regulatory system in Victoria was overly complex and was failing consumers.

Around Australia, building surveyors have come under scrutiny following a number of building control failures which have led to defects and – in the case of a Docklands apartment complex in Melbourne – the spread of fire as a result of combustible cladding.

In a recent address to the Queensland chapter of the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors, construction industry lawyer Professor Kim Lovegrove FAIB said surveyors should be appointed by owners rather than builders; limited to assessing approvals on the basis of compliance with prescriptive regulations; given suitable powers to issue compliance notices and enforcement orders; and subject to ethical requirements which are codified in acts of Parliament (NSW already does this), a mandatory auditing regime and a floor or fees to ensure these are adequate so as to enable the performance of duties in a satisfactory manner.

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  1. Anne Paten

    In relation to the 700, that is a huge statistic given so few practitioners are ever called to any account. The 'no accountability' is correct, as it is for the entire building industry. And 'no accountability' for all the putative 'governance' officials – hence a lawless industry.

    Regarding 'surveyors', many independent reports have now established the actual, as opposed to perceived conflict of interest between builders and surveyors, most recent the Victorian Auditor-General in May 2015, where he referred to it as "long-established" practice, and of course widely acknowledged as 'the norm'! This should never have been made legal, as is the case with much of what is in the Building Act 1993. This heralded in and made 'legalized' what is illegal, applying to much of what became building industry law; this responsible in large part for ushering in the unprecedented consumer calamity that now seems to accepted as 'normal'. There is something very wrong with economic policy that by its nature takes hard-working, independent, ethical persons and via attempting to build turns the majority into homeless bankrupts in the name of generating building and economic benefits for the few!

    • Russell. Jones.

      R. Jones. I have had a house built under Geelong council and the inspections were passed for the concrete to be poured and there were sections of trench with no trench mess I now know why the builder wanted the council to do the inspections. The builder was as good as the inspectors. If it is covered up it will be passed. R. Jones

  2. Charles Litho

    Part of the problem is over regulation, and, expecting every body who passes an exam to come out as perfectly organised business people. Its all dreamland staff to expect perfection from everybody.
    Not all people need perfect work and expensive buildings. Just as you can buy a $5 K Mart shirt that lasts a few years, you can also buy a $100 shirt from Myers that lasts too long, and, you give it to the Salvos for their rag collection. Why control everything in a building?
    The building regulations should only be about building envelopes and stopping the spread of fire. All the rest should be about individual preference. The control of house design by Government is a nightmare we had in the 1960's what would happen if the "communists" take over Australia.
    We did not get invaded by "communists" we bred our own monsters. We have bred our own inefficiency and unproductive practices, to undermine common law rights and make the individual a slave to those that think above all control in everything is the only answer.

    • Branko Mladichek

      Building control is necessary to protect our standards of living or else we will equalise with third world countries. Without regulation you will see African, Asian and South American slums in your suburb. Do we have too much regulation? Perhaps, but the problem is that what we have is not enforced properly and builders are skimping on performance ,delivery quality and integrity. Essential element of integrity is that you must honour your promise and deliver as promised.Too bad that integrity obstructs making extra profit. Many builders expect 100 cents in a dollar from homeowners but deliver somewhat less themselves, all condoned by lack of enforcement and the legal system. Law is supposed to protect homeowner with quality not less than display home but I see they don't ,all the time. There is a major Victorian home builder operating WITH NO QUALITY CONTROL WHATSOEVER. When was the last time Consume Affairs Victoria fined builders for breaches of DBCA1995 for not doing so, for making stage progress claims when stage is not finished, and for million other breaches?
      Public service? 10 % try to be productive, 10% sabotage first 10% the rest just busy planning their time off work.

  3. beverley-jane

    Building Practitioners Board inspection on our nightmare house resulted in report of 610 page and 391 defects. Surveyor didn't even receive a slap on the wrist!
    The builder who liquidated and was provided with ongoing registration despite liquidation and walked away with hearing costs as a 'reward'. I use 'reward' deliberately since he received full payment for the house, never refunded for the $72 000 he owed for uninstalled items and items we had actually paid for!
    He never had to attend to the hundreds of thousands of dollars in defective, hazardous and rotting mess he left us with either.
    This entire industry is riddled with corruption, incompetence and lack of integrity which is devastating thousands of families each year, despite repeated Auditor General and Ombudsman investigations and reports. Seems the regulators and so called consumer protection bodies are held to the same level of accountability as the industry. Disaster for hardworking families.

  4. Grant

    Like any industry there are those who do well and there are the few (very few) bad apples. The majority of building surveyors in Vic are professional people who carry out their work in strict accordance with the Building Act, Building Regs and Australian Standards. The job is demanding. Relationships with clients is a delicate balancing act for any regulator including government regulators. Building Surveyors must and do have the broad range of technical knowledge bringing together the entire building project, unlike engineers and architects who deal with individual aspects of a job. My experience with building surveyors has been nothing but positive. Those I have previously engaged have assisted me with complex building issues, from advice on plans and permits, through to final inspection and certificate of occupancy. For those who believe there is little accountability, take a look at the number of practitioners who have been disciplined over the past and with penalities ranging from heavy fines through to revoking registration. Who in their right mind would purposely flaunt these rules especially after the many years of study and work experience it takes to become registered.