Stra­ta Reme­di­al Update: Emer­gency Reme­di­al Build­ing Works

The NSW Depart­ment of Cus­tomer Ser­vice has released a Fact Sheet: Emer­gency Reme­di­al Build­ing Work:


This Fact Sheet has been pre­pared as a guide­line to assist own­ers cor­po­ra­tions, stra­ta man­agers and design and build­ing prac­ti­tion­ers in respect of reme­di­al emer­gency build­ing works in exist­ing class 2 buildings.

The ongo­ing con­struc­tion reform in NSW is present­ly focused on class 2 build­ings, or build­ings with a class 2 part, that is, exist­ing stra­ta build­ings. The stra­ta reme­di­al indus­try has been thrown into tur­moil and con­fu­sion as a result. 

With mul­ti­ple 1 in a 100 year’ storm events occur­ring across the dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed urban areas of Syd­ney over the past 15 months, the issue of emer­gency works has been a top­ic at the fore­front of discussion. 

From 1 July 2021, in addi­tion to impos­ing oblig­a­tions on new con­struc­tion of class 2 build­ings, the Design and Build­ing Prac­ti­tion­ers Act 2020 (DBP Act) also impacts exist­ing stra­ta build­ings. If an own­ers cor­po­ra­tion is per­form­ing reme­di­al build­ing works which are not exempt’ build­ing works for the pur­pos­es of that leg­is­la­tion[1], a reg­u­lat­ed design needs to be pre­pared by a reg­is­tered design prac­ti­tion­er before your reg­is­tered build­ing prac­ti­tion­er under­takes those reme­di­al build­ing works.

This takes time…and money.

So…what is the process if there are emer­gency reme­di­al build­ing works required in an exist­ing stra­ta build­ing? There may be an own­er or own­ers whose ameni­ty is impact­ed, own­ers or occu­piers who may not be able to live in their units and, the own­ers cor­po­ra­tion may be exposed to poten­tial dam­ages claims if the issue is not fixed in a time­ly man­ner.[2]

How do own­ers cor­po­ra­tions com­ply with their statu­to­ry oblig­a­tions to main­tain and repair com­mon prop­er­ty in a sit­u­a­tion where there are urgent works required and there is no time to have a reg­u­lat­ed design prepared.

Clar­i­ty is here!

If your own­ers cor­po­ra­tion is deemed to be per­form­ing emer­gency reme­di­al build­ing works giv­ing rise to a rea­son­able excuse[3] your build­ing prac­ti­tion­er is exempt from hav­ing to engage a reg­is­tered design prac­ti­tion­er to pre­pare a reg­u­lat­ed design for those works. A reg­is­tered build­ing prac­ti­tion­er is per­mit­ted to pro­ceed to repair the build­ing ele­ment asso­ci­at­ed with the emer­gency’, with­out a reg­u­lat­ed design. 

How­ev­er, the ques­tion of whether the works are indeed emer­gency reme­di­al build­ing works giv­ing rise to these exemp­tions for com­pli­ance with the DBP Act should be care­ful­ly con­sid­ered using the guide­lines and case stud­ies offered in the Fact Sheet and the rel­e­vant legislation.

Why do some reme­di­al build­ing works not require a reg­u­lat­ed design?

In stra­ta build­ings, there are often emer­gen­cies where an own­ers cor­po­ra­tion is required to per­form imme­di­ate works to address an issue which is impact­ing the build­ing. That is, the issue:

is caus­ing, or is like­ly to cause, dam­age to the build­ing and:

  1. the inabil­i­ty to inhab­it or use the build­ing (or part of the build­ing) for its intend­ed pur­pose, or
  2. a risk to health or safe­ty, or
  3. a risk of fur­ther dam­age to the build­ing (or part of the build­ing)…”; and

is seri­ous in nature”.

If this is the case, you still need to lodge a design com­pli­ance dec­la­ra­tion on the NSW Plan­ning Por­tal with that dec­la­ra­tion, if applic­a­ble, stat­ing that the Build­ing Code of Aus­tralia (BCA) has not been met in respect of the emer­gency reme­di­al build­ing works and, giv­ing suf­fi­cient detail of the works includ­ing pho­tographs and sketches. 

After per­form­ing emer­gency reme­di­al build­ing works, you can­not just walk away from the DBP Act. Once the imme­di­ate works are per­formed, you need to fur­ther con­sid­er your statu­to­ry oblig­a­tions should the emer­gency reme­di­al build­ing works not ful­ly resolve the issue. How­ev­er, this rea­son­able excuse will allow you to get on with the works and avoid the prepa­ra­tion of a reg­u­lat­ed design at first instance. 

If it is appar­ent down the track that the works have been suc­cess­ful, no reg­u­lat­ed design is required. If they are not, the next time around, a reg­u­lat­ed design and full com­pli­ance with the DBP Act is required. You can­not keep going back’ to do emer­gency reme­di­al build­ing works.

Just a tip, if there is time to under­take all steps nec­es­sary to com­ply with the DBP Act before per­form­ing the reme­di­al build­ing works, then it is like­ly that those works are not imme­di­ate­ly required and will not sat­is­fy the guide­lines of being emer­gency reme­di­al build­ing works.

Care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion is required as to whether the reme­di­al works being per­formed in your build­ing are:

  • emer­gency reme­di­al build­ing works, giv­ing rise to a rea­son­able excuse and result­ing in the works being able to be per­formed imme­di­ate­ly with­out a reg­u­lat­ed design pre­pared (but the steps not­ed above being per­formed); or
  • works that do not meet the cri­te­ria for emer­gency reme­di­al build­ing works mean­ing a reg­u­lat­ed design is to be pre­pared in com­pli­ance with the DBP Act (if no exemp­tions apply).

If there is any doubt, obtain pro­fes­sion­al advice to avoid any com­pli­ance issues arising. 

There are oth­er areas of the DBP Act which impact the stra­ta reme­di­al indus­try and are also caus­ing angst. Fur­ther guide­lines are com­ing with ongo­ing con­sul­ta­tion between the stra­ta reme­di­al indus­try and Gov­ern­ment but, in the mean­time, this Fact Sheet should pro­vide guid­ance if you are need­ing to per­form emer­gency reme­di­al build­ing works.

[1] See clause 13 of the Design and Build­ing Prac­ti­tion­er Reg­u­la­tions 2021

[2] Sec­tion 106 of the Stra­ta Schemes Man­age­ment Act 2015

[3] Sec­tion 19 of the Design and Build­ing Prac­ti­tion­ers Act 2020