How can the building owner reduce legal costs in building defects?

CJK Fire & Safety Engineering

Owners corporations often engage lawyers and special experts to audit their buildings for compliance with the Building Code of Australia.  The process of building defects investigation and negotiation with the builder can become very expensive.  But what can the building owners do to reduce that cost?

Firstly,  it needs to be understood that compliance audits cannot be selective and only assess defects caused by the builder. Defects and compliance issues caused by lack of maintenance will be treated in the same manner. This means for every hydrants cabinet where combustibles are stored, for every fire door propped open and missing log book there will be inspections by the expert, reinspection by the builder’s expert, documentation of the observations, reviews by lawyers and discussions during mediation. The only possible result for an building defect classified as a maintenance item, is that it is the responsibility of the building owner to rectify.

Therefore,  before engaging a special expert to conduct a fire safety audit, it is strongly recommended that all maintenance responsibilities are addressed. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Making sure nothing is stored outside storage dedicated areas
  • Annual checks and certification is completed
  • All documentation, including Maintenance-in-Use manuals, log books, emergency manuals etc are stored on site and are readily available on request 
  • Any post-construction installations (security equipment, internet, telephone, satellite etc) are carried out correctly and in accordance with the BCA whereby any openings for penetrations are properly sealed 
  • Fire exits are not obstructed
  • Smoke alarms are not removed; and
  • No unauthorised change in layout or use has occurred

Taking care of a building as required by the legislation will result in a reduced scope for a fire safety expert and, hence, reduce the overall legal cost.  For more information on the importance of a good legal expert can be found in our blog.

 

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