A quick guide to identifying defects

Property is a big investment, and it’s only as good as how you manage and maintain it. However, in some cases, you may encounter what’s known as a building defect. The Australian Glossary of Building Terms defines a defect as “fault or deviation from the intended condition of a material, assembly or component. Despite the legal definition, defects are an emotional topic for property owners, and it is often a topic that is rife with misinformation, opinions and competing interests.

It is not uncommon for people to have an emotional connection to their property. After all, it is your home, the place where one should feel safe, and if there’s something wrong, we want to be able to fix it right away. Unfortunately, a typical defect process can take up to over a year to resolve and can cost 10’s of thousands of dollars to finish. But before you undergo the process, you must first know how to identify a defect.

What constitutes as a defect?

To determine a defect, you can be guided by these two questions: “is it something that the builder has done wrong?” If the answer is yes, it must be under the following guidelines;

Deviation from planningThe defect can be considered as a deviation from planning if the completed project/construction fails to perform as required by the contract.

Poor workmanshipIn some cases, a defect is caused by poor workmanship. Things that are incorrectly installed or improperly fitted.

Not in accordance of building codesOther times, a defect is not in line with the National Construction Code. For this, you will have to engage with an expert to inspect your suspected defect and confirm if this is the case.

When is it not a defect?

It is not considered a defect if it is normal wear and tear, lack of effective maintenance, misused or a result of physical damage. Buildspect principle John Coghlan told Strata Plan customers that when lot owners become aware of a potential problem or issue with the building, they usually fall into one of three broad categories.

The issue may genuinely be a defect – that is something that is not as per the agreed documents, variations or is non-compliant, not fit for purpose or a product of poor workmanship.

However, the issue may have been caused by a lack of effective maintenance or simply a product of wear and tear over time.

“When something is broken, there’s usually one of three things that have happened,” Mr. Coghlan said. “If we talk about a door, for example, is that door broken because it was incorrectly installed? Is it the wrong door for the position? Has it been maintained? Or is it just worn out or misused?

“Our role is to identify which of those facets apply. Is it a defect? Is it a lack of maintenance, or is it simple wear and tear?

“If we apply that across a whole building, often we see a lot of the issues that are raised and get thrown out because they are maintenance issues or wear and tear – they are not defects.”

Gathering evidence

It’s easy to make a list of what doesn’t seem right but proving that these problems are genuine defects might be harder to prove. Gathering evidence and providing facts will help speed up the process of trying to rectify a defect.

Going back to the door example, asking the right questions will allow for more informed decisions. Was the door installed correctly? Is it the wrong door? Perhaps the door selected doesn’t quite fit? Maybe the door is correct but the frame is the one with the problem? Or is it broken because it’s always being shut hard, or pets have scratched the door? Are there any references in relation to that door have been breached or not complied to?

“Knowing the answer to those questions allows an informed decision to be made.”


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