Reins on cowboy builders to be tightened

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 05:00 11/07/2014

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New measures aimed at clamping down on shoddy builders will be imposed from next year, paving the way for the slashing of red tape that restricts standard house builds.

The changes will require builders to have written contracts, provide information on their backgrounds and qualifications and to disclose their insurance and warranty cover for residential building work valued at more than $30,000.

Builders face instant fines of up to $500 if they are caught failing to comply.

The changes to the Building Act were made last year. Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith confirmed they would be in force from January 1.

"We need to improve how building work is contracted in New Zealand to ensure better-quality work, improved affordability and fewer disputes. We need to replace a ‘she'll be right' with a ‘doing it right' culture, with increased professionalism, open disclosure and clear expectations about what work is to be done, at what price and in what timeframe," he said.

With the construction industry booming because of the Christchurch rebuild and efforts to boost housing supply, the temptation to cut corners needed to be discouraged.

The contract between the builder and client would have to include specific clauses on warranties, dispute resolution and remedies.

The changes are part of a shift towards making the building of standard houses subject to fewer conditions, so that new builds can be fast-tracked and made cheaper.

A separate amendment to the Building Act allows for "risk-based consenting", meaning less red tape, but its implementation is subject to the consumer protection measures being put in place and it will not be enacted before the election.

Registered Master Builders Federation chief executive Warwick Quinn welcomed the changes.

The initial changes had consumer protections and allowed better-informed choices to be made. "Then the councils can bring in risk-based consenting, which means that low-risk houses can be subject to fewer regulatory oversights, which should make them cheaper to build and faster to build."

Delays in inspections were pushing up house prices "so anything that speeds [new builds] up is going to save time as that's where the biggest costs can be".

Labour has slammed the length of time it has taken to implement the changes.

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