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Residential building work

Under the Residential Building Work Contracts and Dispute Resolution Act 2016 (the Act) a ‘residential building’ is a building, or structure, that is classified under Volume One of the National Construction Code as:

  • a class 1a building
  • a class 2 building
  • a class 10 building (if that building is associated with a class 1a building or class 2 building)

The following are not residential buildings for the purposes of this Act:

  • Caravan or any motor vehicle, trailer, aeroplane, or boat, used as a residence
  • Boarding house, guest house, hostel or lodging house
  • Motel, residential club, residential hotel or residential part of licensed premises, or any other building or structure, or part of a building or structure, used or intended to be used as tourist, holiday or overnight accommodation
  • Residential part of an educational institution
  • Hospital or care institution
  • Building or part of a building comprising of only one residence that used, or is intended to be used, by a caretaker for the building
  • Prison, a detention centre, or premises where offenders will be held in remand
  • Government House
  • Building comprising 3 or more separate places of residence situated directly one above the other
  • Building designed to house more than 12 persons who are not members of the same family

Licensed building service providers

You can search for a building contractor’s licence details using the CBOS Online Licence Search.

Before you decide to enter into a residential building contract, make sure that the building contractor you choose to do the work is licensed. Building, plumbing, gas, and electrical practitioners must hold certain licences in order to perform certain types of building work.

However, some types of building work, such as paving, concreting, painting, and landscaping, do not require a licence in Tasmania.  If the contractor or practitioner is not required to be licensed, you should still make sure they are suitably experienced to undertake the work.

Building surveyors

It is important that you are involved in selecting and engaging the Building Surveyor, as they are responsible for representing your best interests in ensuring the building design and building work meets the requirements of the National Construction Code and Australian Standards.

Your Building Surveyor remains involved in your building project until it is complete, inspecting the work at particular stages to ensure your builder (or you, if you are an owner builder) are building in accordance with the approved design.


A Residential Building Work Contract is a legally binding agreement between owners and building contractors to perform residential building work. The residential building work contract is a complex document which details the building work that is to be done, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the owner and the builder. The contract includes all plans, drawings and specifications.

All contracts must be in writing, dated and signed by both parties.

The contract must also include:

  • The names of the owner and the building contractor
  • The building contractor’s licence details (licence number)
  • All terms that are agreed between the owner and the building contractor
  • A clear description of the building work to be done, including plans, drawings and specifications
  • The contract price or an estimate and the method of calculating the price, including prime cost items and provisional sums allowances
  • The practical completion date or the method for estimating the practical completion date
  • A list of all applicable statutory warranties

There are standard residential building work contracts, otherwise known as “standard form contracts”, available from many sources include builders, industry bodies and some lending authorities.  If you use one of these standard form contracts, it is important that you read the contract thoroughly and understand all terms and conditions, prior to signing, to ensure that it accurately reflects what has been agreed.

While there is a minimum cooling-off period of five business days for all residential building work contracts, you should make sure you are happy with the contract in its entirety before you sign it.  If you are not happy with any of the terms in the contract, you should negotiate with your builder to add or remove any terms that do not suit your needs.

If you are unsure about any part of the contract, you may wish to take a copy of the contract to a legal practitioner for independent advice.  Please note that by seeking legal advice, your right to withdraw from the contract during the cooling-off period will be affected.

Residential building consumer guide

Builders are required to provide owners with a copy of the Residential Building Consumer Guide. It contains information about building contractor obligations and consumer rights as outlined in the Residential Building Work Contracts and Dispute Resolution Act 2016.

The consumer guide is to be provided to the owner, with a copy of the signed contract, within 5 business days of the contract being signed.

Residential Building Consumer Guide (PDF, 2.2 MB)

Guide to standards and tolerances

The Guide to Standards and Tolerances 2017 is a valuable resource that provides all parties to a residential building work contract an independent perspective to determine acceptable standards of workmanship.

This Guide has been developed to:

  • Help prevent disputes and provide quality workmanship
  • Provide standards to help assess residential building disputes
  • Clarify quality and standards that are not addressed in legislation, policy, or regulatory building standards

Guide to Standards and Tolerances (pdf, 4.8 MB)

Statutory warranties

Building contractors must give a range of warranties that are rights of the owner whether or not it is written into a contract. These warranties automatically form part of all residential building contracts.

The statutory warranties provide that:

  • All materials supplied will be suitable and of good quality for work to be done
  • Unless otherwise stated in the contract, all materials supplied are new
  • The work will comply with all relevant laws and legal requirements
  • The work will be carried out in an appropriate and skilful way, with reasonable care and skill
  • All work will be carried out in accordance with all plans and specifications, as set out in the contract (if applicable)
  • The home or dwelling will be suitable for occupation once completed (if applicable)
  • All work carried out will be performed with reasonable diligence
  • Any provisional or estimated costs have been calculated with reasonable care and skill, taking into account all information reasonably available at the time

Statutory warranties last for 6 years from the date of practical completion and transfer to new owners if the property is sold, until the end of the original time period.  To make a claim that the building contract has not met their obligations under the statutory warranties, it must be submitted within the six year period.

Owner builder

The statutory warranties will run for 6 years from completion of the building work and will apply for the benefit of any subsequent owner of the building during that period.

Claim for payment

Building practitioners and building material suppliers have the option to make a claim for payment under the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 2009 (the Act).

A building practitioner or building material supplier adds the following statement to their invoice:

‘This is a payment claim under the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 2009.’

This statement indicates that the building practitioner or building material supplier is seeking payment or written reasons for non-payment within 10 business days (or 20 business days if the receiver of the invoice is a Residential Home Owner).

Where there is a disagreement over payment between parties, a building practitioner can apply for adjudication of the dispute. A Nominating Authority appoints an independent adjudicator to assess the dispute.  The adjudicator must assess the application within 10 business days.

Further information relating to Security of Payment is available.

Dispute resolution options

If a building dispute does occur, there are options available to help you resolve the issue:

  • You must notify your building contractor, in writing, of your concerns as soon as you become aware of them.  Making sure your building contractor is aware of your concerns and giving them an opportunity to resolve the issues, is the best first step
  • Understand the acceptable work standards set out in the Guide to Standards and Tolerances 2017 (pdf, 4.8 MB)
  • Contact CBOS for advice or to access the free dispute resolution and mediation services
  • You also have the right to enforce your rights through the Courts.  Seek independent legal advice if this is the option you choose to follow.