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Building or Renovating your home? 

7 TIPS to guide you through the process 


Building or renovating your home can be a tricky and complex process.

We have put together 7 TIPS to guide you through the process. By following these tips, you are less likely to end up in a dispute with your Builder, either during or after the build or renovation being carried out:  

  • Chat to your Local Council

Your Local Council will have an abundance of information to share with you about your plans to build and/or renovate your home.  Prior to engaging your Builder, it is good practice to contact your Local Council and make enquires about your intended build and/or renovation. This is recommended not only so you know your ideas are achievable but also so that you are equipped with the right information to communicate with your Builder.

You will be required to obtain Council approval before you commence your build or renovation. Often your Architect or Builder will carry out the Application for approval process with your Council for you, so it is important that the information you convey to them is correct. 

  • Verify that your Builder is Appropriately Licensed 

Log on to Consumer and Business Services’ “CBS Licensing Register” to find a Builder who is a building license holder and/or to check if a person and/or company is appropriately licensed to undertake the building works.  This is very important.

Do not engage a Builder if they do not hold a current valid license or if they don’t hold a license for the scope of the work you require them to perform.

  • BEFORE YOU SIGN THE CONTRACT – Carefully Review the Contractual Terms and Conditions 

Most standard contracts provided by a Builder, contain provisions which favor and protect the Builder more than the owner of the property.

You should have your building contract carefully reviewed by a solicitor before you sign it so that the solicitor can:

  • let you know whether the building contract adequately protects your interests;
  • advise you of the risks to you if you sign the contract as it is; and
  • recommend and negotiate amendments to the contract to ensure your interests are protected before you sign it.

This is a crucial step as it is can prove difficult to vary a clause in a contract after you have signed the contract.

  • BEFORE YOU SIGN THE CONTRACT – know the costs and budget 

In most circumstances, your Builder will provide you with a list specifying the actual cost of sections of works and also the items you have selected. Before you sign the contract, we recommend that you carefully review these costs and that they are within your budget. You should also allow a room in your budget for unexpected costs and / or variations.  In our experience it is very common for there to be additional costs/variations in all builds and/or renovations.

  • Finalise your Prime Cost Items

So that you have more control over the cost of your build and/or renovation, we recommend that you finalise the costs of as many items as you can before you sign your contract.   This will limit your chance of variance and going over your budget.

If there are any items listed as prime cost items in you contract please be aware that these are estimates only and are likely to see an increase and therefore a variation once final selections on them are done by you.

  • Obtain Variations from your Builder in Writing 

If you wish to vary any items or works within your contract, we recommend that you write to your Builder clearly setting out the variation you require and that you ensure that your Builder acknowledges and provides confirmation by way of a written variation, including the additional work before the variation work is started.  The written variation must set out the difference from the amount included in your contract sum and the new cost so you may consider whether it is within your budget to proceed with the variation.   

  • Keep good notes of your conversations with your Builder 

We recommend that you have a notebook for your build/renovation and after each appointment or meeting with your Builder, make clear and detailed notes of your conversations and agreed outcomes.

It is also a good practice to send an e-mail or other written correspondence to your Builder setting out the issues and outcomes which were discussed at each meeting, and then ask  your Builder to let you know you if they had formed a different understanding.

Should you be experiencing difficulty in dealing with your Builder or you are considering entering a new build or renovation contract, please do not hesitate to contact us on (08) 8333 2130.

Clarke Hemmerling Lawyers  have lawyers that specialize in building and construction law who can assist you with a review and advice on your contract before it is signed.

This blog was written by Kaviytha Raman, Association at Clarke Hemmerling Lawyers.

This blog post does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is a general commentary on matters that may be of interest to you.  Formal legal or other professional advice should be sought before acting or relying on any matter arising from this communication.