Canberra is in the midst of a building defect crisis, with an inquiry hearing complaints of poor quality work, construction delays and crumbling contractors. 

A vast number of defects have been reported in new Canberra’s new buildings, which is largely being attributed to inexperienced builders.

Building regulator Access Canberra has been widely criticised for having a ‘lax’ attitude towards building quality.

In response, the regulator has revealed that it temporarily shut down 32 construction sites in the past three months and has inspected over 180 sites since the beginning of the year.

Access Canberra also launched new builder’s license exams last month and is working on a code of conduct for builders and surveyors. However, the regulator’s full reform package is currently running a year behind schedule.

An inquiry into Canberra’s building defects is currently in progress. One hundred submissions have been made, detailing numerous accounts of non-compliant construction at apartment complexes, construction delays and owners being forced to pay for defects left by collapsed contractors.  

The first of a series of hearings was held last week.

There have been numerous examples of poor-quality building in Canberra throughout the past 15 years, former ACT building inspector and executive director of ACT Master Builders, Jerry Howard told the inquiry.

According to Howard, while the traditional form of construction in Canberra has been houses, two-thirds are now apartments, which require different skills to build.

There is suspicion that inexperienced builders are working on many of Canberra’s new multi-residential dwellings, resulting in issues such as building defects and unapproved variations, both of which require the owner to pay out of pocket.

The inquiry also heard about the practice of ‘phoenixing’, referring to a new company being created to continue the work of a company that has been purposely liquidated.

A number of building owners also came forward with their experiences of defects and non-compliance in new buildings.

The overall consensus is that Access Canberra needs to do more to police building quality, and industry bodies such as the Master Builders Association need to take responsibility for their members.

More hearings will be held next month.