We bought a house and there are building defects. What do we do?
Buying a house is an exciting time, especially if it is your very first property purchase. It is therefore, very disappointing if you discover building defects once everyone settles in and wants to enjoy the house.
In order to begin to address this issue you need to obtain a copy of an occupancy permit. The reason for that is that the builder is only responsible for rectification of defects for a period of 10 years of the date of the occupancy certificate (or a certificate of final inspection). It is very important that you locate this information as quickly as possible due to the fact that once the 10 year period expires you will no longer be able to have the builder address the defects. If you are well within the 10 year period, you need to contact the builder and advise them of the issues. The builder will attend your property for the purposes of inspection and will advise you if the items are defective and of any proposal.
If the builder is not willing to attend the property, you will need to lodge a complaint with the Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) at https://www.dbdrv.vic.gov.au/. This is a free service, however, it is preferable to obtain legal advice before lodging any application to a dispute resolution body.
What happens, however, if you engage an expert to conduct a pre-purchase inspection and the expert identifies defects and provides you with a list of items that are defective? You then have 2 choices, namely:
(1) Obtain expert advice as to the costs of rectification works and negotiate the purchase price, taking into account the amount you will need to spend to address the defects; or
(2) Ensure that the vendor organises the rectification works prior to settlement and that the works are inspected by your expert to ensure that they are properly done. In order to achieve this option you will need to engage a lawyer to draft a special condition.
Please note that if you obtain a pre-purchase report and do not take any of the above options you are precluded from approaching the builder with a request to rectify the items, as you would have had an opportunity to negotiate a purchase price with the vendor but did not do so.
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This article provides information that is general in nature and is not a substitute for legal advice.