When you have building work done, whether it be the construction of a new building or the renovation of an old building, the plan is that you are left with a completely finished product that is just the way you planned it would be. However, at the completion of building works there are often defective or incomplete works which need to be rectified or completed. Whilst owners have rights when this occurs, the rights vary depending on whether unsatisfactory works are defective or incomplete.
What is defective work?
A defect, or defective work, is work that has been done purportedly in performance of a building contract but is not in conformity with the express requirements of a building contract, reasonable industry standards or applicable building codes or standards.
What is incomplete work?
In contrast, incomplete work is simply work that is incomplete. However, many building contracts provide that practical completion is not reached where there is defective work that unreasonably affects occupation.
Consequences of defective work
If work is defective, then generally there will be a breach of the building contract and, in the case of domestic building work, breach of implied warranties under the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991 (“the QBCC Act”). The owner will be entitled to have the defective work rectified by the building contractor and, failing rectification, the owner will be entitled to compensation from the contractor.
Where the building work is domestic building work, the owner may also be entitled to make a complaint to the Queensland Building and Construction Commission, who might:
- Direct the contractor to carry out rectification works; and
- Failing that, approve payment for another contractor to complete the works under the statutory insurance scheme provided for by the QBCC Act.
Consequences of incomplete work
Similar consequences arise from incomplete works as for defective works mentioned above.
Additionally, however, where works are incomplete, the practical completion stage as defined under the building contract may not have been reached, which gives rise to a right of the owner to refuse to pay the contractor’s final claim and refuse to take possession of the building works. If the contractor refuses to complete the works, then the owner may be entitled to terminate the building contract and take possession of the works without paying the final claim.
What can you do if your property has incomplete or defective building works?
The first step will usually be to direct the contractor to return to the site to rectify or complete the work.
If the contractor fails or refuses to do so, then the next prudent step is to engage an experienced construction lawyer to advise on your rights.