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A building dispute can cost more than the renovation

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Renovators who end up in a legal dispute with their builder could find that their lawyers cost them more than the renovation and if they lose they then have the added cost of rectifying the building problems.

Edward Lukac from Archicentre, the building design, inspection and advice service of the Australian Institute of Architects, said, ‘New home buyers and renovators continue to make regular appearances on current affairs television shows across Australia, often standing in ruins of half finished or badly constructed buildings.’

Mr Lukac said the reality is that it is no good trying to assess the quality of building work when the house has ‘got its clothes on’ and shoddy framework, plumbing, drainage or wiring is concealed by plaster board, flooring or roofing.

Archicentre is often contacted by people who are in dispute with a builder about their renovation or new home over three main issues. the scope of the work, the completion of the work or the quality of the work.

‘More than often the building dispute could have been avoided if the owner had sought professional assistance from an architect at the beginning of the project to plan the work, estimate the construction cost, provide detailed drawings and, where required, administer the building contract,’ Mr Lukac said.

‘The majority of these disputes relate to a lack of preparation and a communication breakdown between parties over what was included within the price, what wasn’t included and how much more the “extra” work is going to cost.

‘The arguments usually result from a lack of clarity at the very beginning of the project when quotes were being obtained, where owners have not presented accurate plans, nominated required finishes or specified the quality of fittings leaving the builder to guess.’

Mr Lukac said that if you want a firm, reliable price for your renovation project you need to put some time and effort into specifying everything you want, right down to the type of door handles, the number of power points and the size of the kitchen sink as fittings can be extremely expensive items.

‘The completion of works within a set date depends on a number of factors relying again on a good, clear understanding between client and builder of the project start and finish dates, regular attendance onsite by the builder and prompt payment of invoices by the client.

‘A written contract confirming these particulars is a must and the role of the architect is to ensure their client’s interests are protected.’

Mr Lukac said that differences of opinion over workmanship quality are the source of many an argument, but there are published guidelines that take the guesswork out of whether something is acceptable or not.

‘Regular inspections are necessary to ensure that poor work is picked up and rectified early and while it is up to the builder to check the work of their tradespeople, if you want independent ‘third party’ inspections an architect can assist with these as well.’

Archicentre has a cost guide on its website at http.//www.archicentre.com.au/cost-guide that provides a general indication of costing for renovations and home improvements.


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