Checking Your Builders Price

I’m excited $$ price is what I want, they told me everything will be great BUT IS IT?

This week I’ve had two examples of Verandah builders essentially cheating or deceiving their clients of their rights and government of tax. Quotes are written to reduce quote price, normal building conditions and contractual rights under the Victorian Building Act 1993. Their offers one over $16,000 one under were both deceptive and unlawful.

Victorian Building Code is for projects above $10K specifically are non-negotiable in terms of minimum contractual terms and conditions for BOTH parties so buyer beware when your builder omits items others offer naturally.

Example One: Project Cost Above $16k – Value of quote was $45K plus extras

This quote severely reduced client’s rights plus had such lack of detail except for a price that whilst cheaper to their competitors but there were some costly omissions plus adding items in as extras but not included in contract price, therefore, evading tax and consumer laws and conditions. Just some of the issues that a consumer may consider unusual plus unfair.

  • No Insurance offered in quote – Home Owners Warranty mandatory if project above $16K – a cost reduction to competitors quotes of $1.2K or more plus gst.
  • No Registration Noted – check your quote as only registered builders and building companies can enter into a contract above $10K, this ensures public liability insurance will be applicable and their registration is applicable for the project type.
  • Deposit 50% required – only max of 5% is allowed for projects above $20K (10% for project below $20K) with split stage payment ‘s normally requested
  • No detail of works – no specification of materials or concept plan or warranties noted.
  • No details of terms and conditions by which quote may rely upon if a dispute arose.
  • Interest @ 5% monthly (or x 12= 60% annually) – seems a tad over the extreme and clearly non compliant

Example Project Two: Cost Below $16K – Value of Quote was $15.9K plus extras

Rough Plan was provided – not real specification and handwritten statements appear to be overstated and unsubstantiated. No business address, relatively few project details, no declared terms or conditions just simply a range of poorly worded commitments plus some. strong buy now pressure.

What I did realize that a significant range of Items was noted as additional but not included in the project’s main price. These items formed part of client brief, so required by the client, were added to base price but not to be included the main permit price. This was curious as they had done a formal quote below $16K (just below the mandatory insurance requirement level saying $1.2K plus to competitors) but had another almost $10 plus of other work specific to completion of the project. This method was I can only assume to avoid permit tax and insurance cost. Very tricky indeed. If they misleading as a quote wonder what they like when building. Client faith will be needed to accept this quote.

  • Plumbing – really an extra but as needed for roof so must be included in the building cost, not an extra? Very weird omission.
  • Electrical – again compliance needed. If done during the permit stage must be included unless client total role to arrange, complete and cost from tradesman direct to client. But as builder doing must be included it’s that simple.
  • Plans and Permits – owners do have the right to arrange and provide this segment again only if the builder not gaining financially from this segment and it’s not forming part of their works. But they are undertaking this process so should be included.
  • No Home Owners Warranty Insurance – this cost of over $1.2K with builders margin and GST is a significant omission in cost but also warranty. Clearly omitted to deceive clients and get a break on competitors. This the reason price just under $16K with all the extras added outside permit price to escape insurance cost.
  • No Business Address – certainly do not enter into a building agreement if no place of business with only a mobile number and a business name. Hard to get something solved if no place of business.
  • No mention of specific products or manufacturers warranties. Yes, they provide their statement of a Builders warranty by that’s for workmanship, not products.

The reason Consumer’ Affairs and Victorian Building Commission provide regulations is to help all parties in ultimately having successful building outcomes that a fair to both parties. Those builders that try to break rules by deceptive practices certainly distort the vast majority of satisfactory outcomes. Reducing price to avoid insurance and tax costs doesn’t should be a warning sign.

What to do?

  1. So check out your builder don’t just believe the salesman.
  2. Are they really what they say they are. Check their history longevity, offices, displays all add to providing assurance and peace of mind.
  3. Review and compare quotes noting differences, Your council or the Victorian Building Commission (VBA) can provide insight into what should be included.
  4. Go to your builder’s offices, check out their product displays, review their manufacturer’s warranty and commitments. There far more to a price that just the number. No offices might indicate a lack of substance.
  5. Businesses with a proven track record strong with supplier support provide greater reasons to believe they can deliver the outcome you need.
  6. Odd requirements, clients tasks, added extras or omissions should raise warning signs. This includes pressure sales commitments, bagging competitors and discounts to buy might not really be the bargain you think.

Check your Builders Details

Check your Builders Details

When considering your project there are many important tasks to consider. When your plans or concepts are ready you must select and decide on a Builder. Having the right builder for your project is based on experince and performance then price. Having selected the right builder will assist in ensuring your build is successful.

Certainly, having a builder recommended can help so ask friends, colleagues and family. Ensuring you know that the builder is experinced in the type of build your proposing will assist in getting the right outcome. If the products your proposing to use are specilalised in yorkshire then selecting an authorised distributor may ensure a better outcome.

Who is your Builder

  1. Are they good at this say New Homes, or are they a more into extensions, or small projects like Verandah’s and Deck’s. This is important that your project fits their skill set.
  2. Are they Registered as a Builder and therefiore able to insure their performance and carry appropriate public liability insurance. (Are they asking you to be the buider and therefore removing the cost and risk from their shoulders might indicate they don’t have correct registration and approved skill set).
  3. Are the products they proposing carrying the warranty that your expectations are considering or do they seems confused or uncertaint or just assuring you without real qualification.
  4. Does there estimate include all items required and discussed. Was is writtern and detailed as per the law. Projects in Victoria over $10,000 required a major building contract. Buiilder and there comaomy should both be registered by VBA. (see link below)
  5. Have you viewed any products details and manufacturers warranties and confirmed details provided.
  6. What is the timeframe. Start leadtime and Completion Estimate.
Check your Bulders details here

What do you Check about your Builder

  1. Is the Builder Registered as a registered building company
  2. Do they have a registered office and products to view such as a display centre.
  3. Are they just a mobile phone number
  4. Are their products and warranties or guarrantees visible and backed by the manufacturer
  5. Do they have a real prior trading history or recent block testimonies all saying same. They say 10 years 20 years but simply not backed up.
  6. Does their product manufacturer list them as an authorised distributor and are actually providing any preceived warranty.

While we only prepare plans for our clients but we like to encourage our clients that they begin research on selecting their builder options early. Thoroughly research that segment as their performance will be the differentce between and good or poor performance to your project.

A successfull project will require a good understanding builder who’s intent is to achieve a qaulity result

Town Planning – Review overlooking for your project

Town Planning – Review overlooking for your project.

When embarking on a new home, extension or even a deck you need to consider if you might trigger an “overlooking: issue. Hilly sites, incorrect fence coverage or heights, proximity to adjoining homes (windows) and private open space are all factors when a floor level rises above 800mm from ground level.

What rule: Under the planning standard A15 and B22 Overlooking is designed to protect existing windows and private open space from overlooking.

What does it cover: A habitable room window, balcony, terrace, deck or patio should be located and designed to avoid direct views into the secluded private open space and habitable room windows of an existing dwelling within a horizontal distance of 9 metres (measured at ground level) of the window, balcony, terrace, deck or patio. Views should be measured within a 45 degree angle from the plane of the window or perimeter of the balcony, terrace, deck or patio, and from a height of 1.7 metres above floor level. For additional extensions gallery and other renovation, one could contact contractors and draft a plan.

Reasons for Review: This to provide some protections (up to 9 meters from proposed development to adjoining owners private space and habitual windows. So essentially this and many other regulations are designed to review for adjoining owners any implication from an adjoining development. This is fundamental to your design development and is carried out by The Project for each project brief.

To help you visualise what “overlooking” means the following diagrams from planning authority.

  1. This diagram sets up the basis for review. If an area is affected (is within hatched area ie: a window, major entertainment area etc.) this this triggers the need to provide a solution. Please follow this link for PDF here

The following diagrams provide some idea of how to calculate any impact

Why Us: The Project Centre with over 20 years experience provides our client’s with helpful feedback on impacts & solutions when we are undertaking their new building design. By commissioning a professional design company ensure your design is compliant or applications undertaken to seek council approval when applicable.

Registration changes domestic work under $10,000

Changes to registration requirements for domestic building work under $10,000

The Victorian Building Authority are making a change relating to non-registered builders and draftspersons engaged in domestic building works valued under $10,000 from 31st August 2017.

The previous limit allowed non-registered builder to perform work is the cost of such work including materials and labour was below $5000. The previous limit allowed non-registered builder to enter in to contracts and perform work if the cost of such work including materials and labour was below $5000.

The new changes are significant, in so much, as ceiling has risen but only if a building permit is not required. There remains some standard exemption which still require correct registration including a builder’s engaged in the re-blocking, re-stumping, demolition or removal of a home, plus other non-structural works.

This update therefore means a further reduction builder’s who are able to undertake any work, regardless of cost, if a permit is required. These might include Verandah’s, Carports, decking, structural renovations which all need a building permit.

In regards Drafting I’m not sure if an owner builder, for example, draws a plan without correct registration, would this be acceptable to applying for a building permit. I’m initially of opinion, that these simple but significant change would mean no they couldn’t draw a plan that requires a building permit. This is to be confirmed.

The current standard plan requirements needed and details required for all permit are such that an unregistered draftsperson or builder may not be aware of all the building requirements, codes and standards and certainly would not hold practitioners insurance etc.

The changes reflect governments clear concern and aim to protect the consumer when undertaking building works.

Visit the VBA website to find out more about registration and the latest changes to building regulations.

Owner-Builder New Rules

Owner-Builder New Rules

From 1st September 2016 significant changes to owner builder requirements when domestic building work is carried out on your own land. The new owner builder rules for when project values exceed $16,000 have been tightened. In fact there is no change to concept that as an owner builder you must adhere to the same rules, regulations as an employed contractor more so government is now trying to pick up “their lack of enforcement and effort” by this new process to apply for VBA consent.

This change will do nothing for those who elect to build illegally, largely due to the enormous red tape and complexity, engineered by our loving bureaucrat’s and politicians. This area remains largely untouched including ensuring complexity remains.

So what does new rules mean:

The VBA web site advises “

An owner-builder it is your responsibility for obtaining building permits, supervising or undertaking the building work, and ensuring the work meets building regulations and standards. That includes any major repairs needed from a Residential Foundation Repair Services company.

“In Victoria, an owner-builder can only build or renovate one house every five years and must intend to live in the house once completed.

Some of the obligations of an owner-builder last for six and a half years after completion of the building work.

In some instances, an owner-builder’s property may become a workplace for the purposes of Occupational Health and Safety legislation and then certain obligations will apply.

If the value of the domestic building work to be undertaken is more than $16,000 you must have a certificate of consent from the VBA to be an owner-builder”

So whilst above unclear in regards the some instances, owner builders will find it frustrating to get a straight answer from VBA , council’s and anyone else, clearly the above place responsibility on the owner builder to ensure work undertaken is considered prior to proceeding.

“As Owner-builders you have a number of important duties and responsibilities.”

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Obtaining and complying with a building permit;
  • Arranging for the certification of completed work and ensuring that the work is compliant with Australian standards;
  • Ensuring site and worker safety;
  • Rectifying any defective building work;
  • Ensuring appropriate insurance policies are in place
  • you must complete an eLearning assessment before you can submit your application for a certificate of consent to become an owner-builder.
  • Attach evidence of the White Card issued by WorkSafe Victoria if required.
  • Application fee currently is $96.18.

So if electing not to employ a registered builder for projects above $16,000 then the above apply.

For projects below $16,000 some of the above not required such as obtaining VBA consent however, in principal, all other requirements remain in place.

When considering undertaking a building project consider following:-

  • Obtain professional advice from council, building surveyor or registered practitioner with knowledge of the project your undertaking.
  • Ensure you obtain a building permit.
  • Ensure you begin your planning well before your required completion date. This includes undertaking plans and permit applications well before your need to complete project.
  • Ensure you obtain a white card, as any problems on site remain your responsibility to prepare for including insurance and processes such as safety considerations.

White Card – there seems to be different views of what to do Worksafe advise (link) and other’s including whitecardonline advise (link) another view. Certainly industry associations including Master Builders and HIA have solutions for courses. Certainly the rogu trainers have even more ways. Its difficult to confirm the best process here but suggest get VBA to confirm their requirements clearly in writing.

At The Project Centre we can assist with your plan and permit needs and reviewing likely timeframes for getting your permits and consents prepared by. For details on owner-builder requirements the VBA is the department to confirm their actual requirements.This link to VBA web site will provide great information concerning this subject. 

Planning and Subdivision Fees Review – Oct 2016

Planning and Subdivision Fees Review – October 2016victoria-future

The Victorian Government have released information concerning significant increases to a range of fees in their Planning and Subdivision Fees Review. The stating that council costs to deliver services and fact that successive governments have failed to review fee’s for 12 years have therefor allowed this Victorian Labor Government to increase the many fee’s by approx.150% or more.

The introduction of a new fee structure for dwelling under $10,000 demonstrate lack of any real awareness to costs (I would love a house built for under $10,000) and continues the inefficiency of the department and its administration of regulations to the detriment of the public. Simply can’t believe they think this category square things up. Really?

The following link to proposed fee’s can be found here

Planning and Subdivision Fees Review

A few snap shot review of a few classic segments of planning developments:

Developments – single dwelling development and  also used for extensions and projects like Verandahs, Sheds and garages

  • Up to $100K        Was $239 Proposed $592 Increase $352 or 147% Increase
  • $100K to $500K  Was $490 Proposed $1213 Increase $723 or  147% Increase

Some new levels are introduced. Sneaky new fee’s not discussed.

  • $500K to $1 Million Was $490 Proposed $1310 Increase $820 or 167% Increase
  • $1Million to 2 Million Was $490 Proposed $1408 Increase $918 or 187% Increase

Amendments to Permits had fee such as listed below

  • $0 to $10,000 Nil
  • $10,000 to $100,000 $239
  • $100,000+ $490

Proposed is now a complicated calculation which is sure to cause significant and unnecessary confusion and costs for owners wanting small extensions or additions to a lot which already has a planning permit and therefore requires that permit to be amended. It is unclear what they proposed to charge but it could be classed under schedule attached.

Amend an existing planning permit – 75% of fee applicable to the original permit class plus the difference in fees if the amendment moves the permit into a different class. The lowest fee starts at $1080 but will they charge 75% of this or the original development cost. Even if at lower end the increase is

  • $0 to $10,000             Was $ Nil    Proposed $810 Increase $810
  • $10,000 to $100,000  Was $239  Proposed $810 Increase $571 Increase 239%
  • $100,000+                  Was $490  Proposed $810 Increase $320 Increase 65%

Lack of a community and business opportunity, and therefore critical response, will ensure Labor Government, who have demonstrated no real care for consumer consultation (our company was asked only 2 weeks ago but no indication of proposed fee’s were provided), to smash consumers with this exceptionally unrealistic increase based on their previous and continued incompetence is wrong. Strong words but true.

I do feel sorry for council planning staff, at the coal face, with the negative responses they will need to field over the coming months. Somewhat feel the same for our company who initially have to advise a client’s first then take the negative flak or the cancellation.


I was expecting change and my first thoughts were

  1. It was wrong that fee’s were not raised yearly similar to the building & other government department. But why had they not? But rise then by 147% Really?
  2. It is true current fee’s do not cover costs fee’s needed to be raised. But is this the right and responsible way?
  3. It is true significant numbers of time wasting applications are triggered for no real public advantage. Why no real significant change particularly to NIL impact projects cluttering the system.
  4. It is true some fee’s are realistic for some more complicated projects but many are not particularly class 10 projects and small dwelling extensions.
  5. it is also true that the government has such lack of transparency, just look at the infrastructure issues, CFA and rail development for other examples that no reasonable consultation with industry was undertaken to those who deal with the consumer. Either that or our association BDAV have failed us building designers and our clients.

The new fee’s will ensure consumers will continue pay for lack of real planning improvement or desire for improvement which successive governments, Labor or Liberal, have simply failed in their elected duties and the Planning Department who seem to have no grasp on their duty.

If your not happy consult your local member I’m sure they will provide the applicable lip service do not blame the council staff or my staff we don’t make the fees.

We, at The Project Centre hope this information will assist those consumers with understanding some of the associated unseen costs of building within Victoria.

Building Amendment (Construction of Swimming Pools and Spas) Regulations 2016

Building Amendment (Construction of Swimming Pools & Spas) Regulations 2016

The continued raft of building regulation changes continues with latest directed to pool-regsdomestic pools and spas. One concern we have also seen is the lack of attention to just when a pool project is finished and therefore we have seen pools and spas in full operation but without proper fencing completed. Generally  we have not be had anything to do with pool project but find ourselves now dealing with the non-completion. Essentially the pool companies and home owners have been employing the extended period of completion related to normal building to give a window of not completing the pool enclosure.

“The new rules appears fair and reasonable to us.”

The Building Amendment (Construction of Swimming Pools and Spas) Regulations 2016 (S.R. No. 104/2016) will come into effect on 3rd October 2016. These reduce red-tape by aligning the completion periods for building work relating to a swimming pool or spa and any associated barrier or safety equipment with the completion period for other building work that is being carried out concurrently on an allotment.

From 3 October 2016, building permits issued for the construction of a swimming pool or spa may reflect the completion date of other building work being carried out concurrently on the same allotment. When calculating the completion date, the RBS should only consider building permits that are in force at the time that the building permit for the construction of the swimming pool or spa is issued.

For a copy of proposed change: Link to government regulation here

So keep your property safe this summer and ensure you know what your obligations are as pools and spas. Small kids simply don’t mix well unattended and unfenced pool areas so get your fences done sooner to enjoy your pool and spas.

New Building Act 1993 changes July 4, 2016

2016 Changes to the Building Act 1993

Victorian Building AuthorityEvery year we find adjustment changes to varies matters now under the control via Victorian Building Authority for Building Act and associated entities such as Plumbing, Architectural, Owners Builders and more.

As the VBA web site states “Changes have been made to the VBA’s powers and functions under the Building Act 1993. Some of these changes may affect your rights and duties under the law.”

This section of the VBA website holds information about:

  • how these changes relate to you as a building practitioner, building surveyor or owner-builder
  • when the changes come into effect
  • what will be different when the changes come into effect, and
  • any specific things that apply during the transition to the new laws.

The link will take you to main site whereby you may web surf to area of most interest to you. Follow the Changes to Building Act 1993.

owner builderWe see certain strengthening of powers and a further layering of checking and cross checking ensuring the industries inefficiency remains without much progress towards any real reform or a balancing between planning and building or review of the changing size of lots and consumer requirements.
Some new powers will hopefully maintain a striding towards removing from industry of cowboys but I see significant many good guys hurt and frightened away in the meantime.

Owner Builders –

Owner Builders will now need to better realise the issues of “being the owner builder” as the rules are the same for all and the playing field will be inspected regularly.

This will make being an owner builder more of a chore, cost will rise significantly and especially for those real small projects such as a verandah and deck. The current status is one rule for all so all building and small project documentation and requirements now the same totally as a new dwelling.

One good change is the need to get VBA consent has risen to $16,000. This amount to me remains to low for both owner builder consent requirement plus also for need to get Home Owners Warranty Insurance. Both should be more around $25,000 so the small “addon” building ie:class 10b, is not over burdened by cost and regulation.

Building Plans

The new minimum plan requirements are being enforced. These are more of an enforcement of the rules that actual new rules but, by placing significant pressure on all building surveyors to ensure documentation for big or small are the same, then time and cost will kick in for small projects as never before.
As Building Drafting company we get it and understand fully the issues but our customers might not be so understanding. We worry many more will roll the dice on avoiding the undertaking of getting a building permit due to cost and red tape increasing.
Simply many old plans do not have the level of detail required today even for a verandah. So getting that detail, even getting the old plans (as often council records poor although now improving due to digital age) then producing plans for small class 10b projects to the standard now required will be more time consuming and will bring with that extra costs.
Politically it will be a time bomb but for now its reality. It needs proper reform for this sector.
Link to what’s required here VBA Practise Note Building Plans Documentation
We at The Project Centre – Narre Warren and a member of the BDAV, are specialists in Class 10b building with over 20 years ImagesBDAV-LOGO.jpgexperience in projects such as garages, carport’s, verandahs, deck’s and other external “add-on” extensions or out buildings. We know whats required and can help you your project.

Contact Us

Head Office – Beaconsfield
Floor 1, Office 1,  70 Old Princes Highway
Beaconsfield Vic. 3807  Phone: (BH) (03) 9769 3517

Casey Cardinia – Peoples Choice Award

Casey Cardinia – Peoples Choice Awardcasey cardinia business awards

This year The Project Centre – Narre Warren has been nominated for the Peoples Choice award for the Casey Cardinia Business Awards. We’re not sure who nominated us but thanks for who did consider us a worthy participant.

peoples choice awardOne nomination is all it takes to shine a light on an outstanding business!

Well so they say. The Project Centre has been providing both Retail services via our timber and hardware yard in Vesper Drive Narre Warren for 20 years up to 6 years ago, and since the closing of that retail yard, we have maintained and concentrated on Architectural Drafting and Building Service which specialises in Dwellings, Renovations and particularly Verandah, Decks, Carports and Garages for both builders and Do it yourself owners.

Our recent opening in Beaconsfield seeing a second office now establishing itself.

“The People’s Choice award provides you the opportunity to vote from nominated businesses. This Award is a separate voting system and it does not require an application form. Unlike all other category awards, The People’s Choice Award is not judged but decided by popular vote by you the public!”

So I guess those of you who have used The Project Centre over the last 25 years might consider voting for us in these up and coming awards.

To vote for us follow this is the link Peoples Choice Award

Owner Builder – New Building Act Changes from 4th July 2016

Owner Builder – New Building Act Changes from 4th July 2016

New Building Act Changes from 4th July 2016

New changes will come into effect for all building in Victoria from July 4th 2016. Whilst here has been a range of information leaking into the industry like all government act’s these come into effect regardless of consequence once released.vba logo

If planning to prepare yourself for a project particularly if an “owner builder” then ensure you read these new changes.

There’s good and bad and quite a few items to digest but two standouts are:


Consent level raised from $12,000 to $16,000 when you need to get VBA consent to be an owner builder of your project. This will allow a reasonable small project to be considered prior to VBA approval being required.

“Remember you must be able to confirm and qualify your expected  project costs when applying for a permit”.


Owner Builders are on notice their projects will have the same scrutiny and inspections as any builder. So preparation, site conditions and have the correct compliant trades never been more important.

Higher level of Permit review with significant requirements on Surveyors to ensure they have all the correct documentation to enable them issue and administer a building permit.

I advise email advice we received…

Building Act changes that may affect you

The Victorian Government has made changes to the VBA’s powers and functions under the Building Act 1993. Some of these changes may affect your obligations under the law.

You can find all the information about how these changes relate to your work as a building practitioner generally, owner builder or a building surveyor specifically, by visiting the dedicated pages of the VBA website.

The first set of changes comes into effect on 4 July 2016. They include:

  • the extension of the VBA’s inspection powers to owner-built sites
  • new offences for undertaking work without a building permit
  • changes to powers to issue directions, notices and orders
  • a requirement on private building surveyors not to act where there is a conflict of interest
  • provision of a checklist for use by relevant building surveyors lodging building permits to councils

Further changes will be introduced in stages until July 2017.