New building laws to corral cowboys

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 15:01 10/07/2014

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New measures aimed at clamping down on shoddy builders will be imposed from next year.

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

The changes to the Building Act were made last year, with Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith confirming today they would be imposed from January 1.

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

"We need to improve how building work is contracted in New Zealand to ensure better quality work, improved affordability and fewer disputes," Smith said.

"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 time frame."

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

"These requirements will reinforce the good practice of many building repairers while constraining cowboys only interested in making a quick buck."

The changes meant the contract between the builder and client would have to include specific clauses around warranties, dispute resolution and remedies, he said.

Consumers would also be supplied with a checklist which included tips on engaging builders and managing the project.

"Our goal is an efficient building industry that is capable of delivering the quantity of quality and affordable homes that New Zealand needs," Smith said.

Builder Richard Merrifield said the changes had been well signalled and would protect consumers.

"It's going to take a lot of the 'he said this she said that' out of it ... I would feel as a consumer most probably that I had some more protection knowing that that was in place," he said.

Consumers would now also know a builder's history and if they had ever been disciplined, he said.

Merrifield questioned what would happen in the case of a job being priced at less than $30,000 but then went over at the request of a client who wanted more work done.

Contracts were provided by building industry organisations, such as Certified Builders, which members could use.

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