AUST – Hendry building surveyors advise building owners and managers that they run a high risk strategy if a tenant’s lease does not adequately protect the building owner when the tenant performs building works/”alterations” to their building without the necessary building permit, especially if the Municipal Building Surveyor becomes involved and enforces the Building Regulations with a Building Notice or Building Order.

Costly Tenant

Building owners who allow tenants to perform a minor building upgrade in their buildings are bewildered when a council building notice materialises under the Building Regulations, forcing the building to undergo a fire safety upgrade of the life safety systems installed in the building.

Many problems arise due to the lack of expertise and knowledge of the Building Regulations offered by “consultants” commissioned to look after a stakeholder’s interests. Building owners should also be aware that most consultants when commissioned by a tenant will look after the tenant’s interests first and foremost under the Building Regulations, and will only work to a brief provided by them.

Legislation Building Regulations Process

Australian States and Territories have differing Building Regulations controlling the construction of an alterations to buildings. Legislation is home-spun in Building Acts and Building Regulations, while the technical provisions of the Building Regulations are mostly uniform through the adoption of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and Australian Standards.

General terms are used in this article to describe specific terminology under the various Building Acts and Building Regulations. Most jurisdictions have similar provisions governing building work and building usage in their Building Regulations. The following examples can be used to gain an understanding of Victoria’s terminology.

Alterations to Buildings: Building Regulations

Some tenants of buildings want to change their tenancies by performing building works such as altering partitioning layout. Depending on house rules (lease requirements pertinent to building permit control or planning control) tenants must obtain the building owner’s/manager’s permission before applying for permits with a building surveyor or building certifier as required by the Building Regulations or commencing work. This is where the building owner/manager’s troubles might begin. Some managers and their representatives do not pay sufficient attention to the house rules, even when they exist. A lack of quality control system basically means the occupier has a free hand to communicate with consultants, controlling authorities and contractors as they see fit, with no representation to the buildings owner’s agents and may even ignore the Building Regulations.

Many tenants have the potential to cause significant financial grief for the building owner by not appreciating the statutory requirements applicable under the Building Regulations to a building when initiating an application for a building permit, or they commence building works or change the use or change of occupancy of a building. Sometimes a tenant gains an advantage by ignoring the Building Regulations requirements and not seeking advice from a building surveyor.

An area of major concern contained in the building regulations for the building owner is when proposed alterations exceed more than 50 percent by volume of the building or where the building has fire safety deficiencies, such issues can trigger a requirement for the whole building to comply with all the current building regulations (the whole BCA). The Victorian building regulations stipulate alterations within a three year period for the 50 percent calculation, other states have no time limits applicable. Some building surveyors include simple partition changes in the volume calculations, while other only calculate the volume associated with a refurbishment which includes significant modification to the building process.