Water-proofing expert quits over new law

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Young Asian engineer or architect man feeling tried and worried while sitting on bench holding his personal yellow protective safety helmet. depression from hard work concept

Last week a builder and waterproofer emailed us in despair.  New regulations make it almost impossible for him to continue doing the work he’s been performing efficiently and effectively for the past 40 years.

This week, in response to his pleas, Fair Trading said they had no plans to make special provisions for experienced waterproofers, under the Building Design Practitioners Act. 

Today he told his clients he would be unable to legally perform the jobs he had been hired to do. He is taking early retirement instead.

This is his original email.

I’m a remedial builder specialising in small apartment blocks.

The new building practitioner laws have destroyed my business overnight. I have a number of buildings I have worked on and continue to work on for years.

The body corporates are so happy having me and my company.

I know no one involved in the new law creation would be concerned about me, that’s life so be it.

However the owners of the buildings I work on do.

Typically I get called to a building with multiple issues. Usually other contractors (most often bigger companies) have done sub par work and the owners just can’t seem to get anywhere.

I come in, do a lot of investigation and prepare a scope of works and cost to fix.

We often prioritise the works to avoid or at least reduce the amount of special levies.

The owners are always so relieved once they get to know me and I become their go-to person.

Once I have worked for them they never go elsewhere.

Most are blocks of 4-5 stories or less and up to about 25 apartments.

Because I do waterproofing as well I can’t do this anymore.

We will have to get an engineer or architect (who generally do not have anywhere my knowledge) to certify my solutions.

One I doubt anyone will be interested in doing this and second it just adds more to the cost for the owners.

I am a licensed builder and a licensed waterproofing technician with 40+ years experience. Just the sort of person these poor owners need.

I’m thinking you may be interested in this unintended consequence if the new laws.

From the unit owners perspective, I have the joy of informing the owners of 4 current projects I can’t work for them under the new system.

3 of those I have done multiple projects on their buildings over the last 4-5 years.

I also have to tell the owners of two other projects I can’t provide a report and costs on how to fix their buildings.

I believe I’m in the top 5-10% of contractors in Sydney in regards to skill levels.

I will either have to let all this work go and do other stuff (for example poorly built luxury houses) or just retire as I’m 60 and getting over it.

Neither are good for home unit owners.

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  • #67249
    Jimmy-T
    Keymaster

      Last week a builder and waterproofer emailed us in despair.  New regulations make it almost impossible for him to continue doing the work he’s be
      [See the full post at: Water-proofing expert quits over new law]

      The opinions offered in these Forum posts and replies are not intended to be taken as legal advice. Readers with serious issues should consult experienced strata lawyers.
    Viewing 9 replies - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
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    • #67261
      TonyC
      Flatchatter

        After Fire Safety, Water penetration is the most significant issue that Strata Schemes must deal with.

        Fire Safety Certificates are signed off by an accredited practitioner.

        The new B & D Act requires an accredited practitioner to sign off on waterproofing work.

        Where’s the problem?

        #67283
        GB
        Flatchatter

          Here is a problem.

          I have project managed fire upgrades and have no issue with anything regulation wise re this.

          Re waterproofing we are transferring a scheme suitable for large multi storey buildings onto small low rise buildings including older (up to 100 years old) buildings.

          It is not a simple “sign off”. I have to find a registered architect or engineer in the first place. Then they must produce a set of documents and lodge them on the portal.

          In my case I have had no defects / claims in 25 years. I have recently had to re do repairs on a smaller building detailed and supervised by one of the biggest remedial engineering companies in Sydney. I have also had to convince another body corporate that the repairs specified by an engineer where not required. They were attempting to fix a problem that didn’t exist rather than one that did. I could have easily done the work and collected the money but that is wrong. So often the so called experts in remedial works do not understand these small blocks.

          I’ll give an example of a issue on a building right now as in January 2023. We have a rising damp issue in a unit in a building that is about 15 years old. There are also a few other issues to fix. This if for $40K’s worth of work. Now the waterproofing component is about 10% of that. We will now have to engage the engineer or architect to draw up the area and lodge the plans on the portal. They will also need to sign off on my scope of works. My colleague who is about the best in Sydney has done this sort of project between 500 and 1000 times. So suddenly we need to involve someone with little experience in this and in the process add 10-15K to the bill. This is if we can find anyone.

          I have another one to do on another building. The cost is only $15K total. Exactly the same process is required for this unit. The cost just went up by 50%.

          I have exacty the same issue on another building.

          The owners are hard pressed enough on these projects without the additional costs of this red tape.

          From my point of view my business model of investigating these older buildings and coming up with solutions is done / finished it is now too clumsy.

          A worrying thing is we are critically short of quality experienced contractors in this feild and should be doing everything to keep those (like me) we have. Fair Trading should leave these laws to the dodgy build concrete hi rises and if they insist on getting into my area at least talk to us first.

           

          • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by .
          #67300
          Olivian
          Flatchatter

            This ruling has hit our strata severely.  The limit of $5,000 is far too low to be reasonable and there are simply not enough engineers to go round.  Our waterproofing problem is still there unfixed which is frustrating the owners of the affected lots and then they feel annoyed with what they see as a disinterested committee and strata manager.

            I would understand if we were looking at an amount of over $100,000.

            • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by .
            #67910
            Sparrow73
            Flatchatter

              My flat is one of 16 and is a bit over 20 years old. We have had issues wuth waterproofing for years. About 7-8 years ago, we decided to bring in an engineering firm to investigate the problems, draw up a scope of works, put out to tender, select a builder, and supervise & finally sign off on the works. ~$380k project. Problem is, the work wasn’t done properly & we are back to square one, since the original builder went bust and the original engineers said it was not their problem. We have had to seek out another engineering firm and start the process all over again. More special levies. You pay extra for engineers to get involved but what is the point if they are not accountable? It’s devastating for many owners who are struggling with rising costs of living at the moment.

              #67924
              Jimmy-T
              Keymaster
              Chat-starter

                Problem is, the work wasn’t done properly & we are back to square one, since the original builder went bust and the original engineers said it was not their problem.

                Was there no warranty offered on the repair work?

                The opinions offered in these Forum posts and replies are not intended to be taken as legal advice. Readers with serious issues should consult experienced strata lawyers.
                #67935
                Just Asking
                Flatchatter

                  Sparrow73, the new Design and Building Practioners Act 2020 may provide recourse as it (unusually) has retrospective application. A duty of care is imposed upon the various building professionals, including engineers.

                  #68013
                  Sparrow73
                  Flatchatter

                    Thank you. I will look into that!

                    #68011
                    Sparrow73
                    Flatchatter

                      Thanks for the response.

                      From what I can gather after doing a bit of research, the contract was from 2016 (i believe the work was completed in 2017 but haven’t yet found the final certificate from the engineers saying it was completed, will keep looking) and it gave us 13 weeks after completion to notify of rectification works and an extra 13 weeks on top of that for ‘major’ rectifications.

                      The Dept of Fair Trading documents as part of the contract said any legal proceedings had to be commenced within 2 years – or 6 years for serious defects.

                      With the builders gone bust now, it’s probably a moot point anyway.

                      But it would be interesting to find out to what extent engineers who oversee work and sign off on it are responsible. As someone not employed in the construction industry, I naiively believed that getting engineers involved cost more but was an added protection (looking back, I’m not sure why…).

                      We just finished paying the 4th special levy i’ve had in my 11 years here and have an upcoming EGM to approve a 5th. I just hope no owners are forced out because of these spiralling costs, esp in today’s high interest rate/high inflation environment….

                      #68012
                      Sparrow73
                      Flatchatter

                        Apologies, I think I replied to the wrong thread….

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