Proposed WA building law reforms to enforce mandatory inspections of apartment construction projects

Proposed WA building law reforms to enforce mandatory inspections of apartment construction projects
  • PublishedDecember 20, 2023

The draft legislation announced on Wednesday titled ‘Building Better’ is in response to dozens of recommendations contained in a national review of the construction industry.

Commerce Minister Sue Ellery has described it as the most significant reform of WA building laws in more than a decade.

“The reforms will increase consumer protections, modernise the way buildings are designed, approved and constructed in WA, and provide peace of mind that our buildings are safe and constructed to the required standards,” she said.

Key to the proposal is the staged introduction of mandatory inspections of apartment buildings during critical points of construction.

A woman speaks at a lectern.
Sue Ellery says the reforms are the biggest changes to WA’s building laws in more than a decade. ( ABC News: James Carmody )

The change would initially cover all residential buildings four storeys and higher — plus all commercial builds.

If the legislation passes, that part of the package is due to come into effect in 2026.

Ms Ellery said it would eventually encompass all residential construction, dependent on a review of the initial rollout.

“Significant consideration has been given to ensure the reforms are implemented gradually, are well understood by building professionals and local governments, and cause as little disruption as is practicable,” she said.

When will this happen?

No timeline has been given for the legislation to be introduced to parliament, with the government planning to release a draft copy to industry stakeholders and local governments.

But if all goes to plan, the first stages of the proposal are due to begin in 2026, and the government says it will wait at least 12 months between the implementation of subsequent measures.

A blue poster with a series of diagrams on it.
A diagram of the new building industry reforms unveiled on Wednesday.( ABC News: James Carmody )

The full draft of the laws is due to be released for consultation early in 2024.

Among the other planned changes are greater enforcement powers for the state’s building commissioner and permit authorities, and an increase in penalties for non-compliance.

What’s the problem?

WA’s apartment construction sector has been in the spotlight, with criticism levelled at a lack of protection offered to consumers experiencing issues. 

The ABC’s 7:30 unveiled structural problems with the construction of an infill apartment complex in Shenton Park which left many buyers dealing with lengthy delays and deposits tied up in red tape.

While the delays stemmed from a commercial dispute, the saga threw WA’s consumer protection and industry regulation into the spotlight.

In WA, owners of apartments in buildings taller than three storeys do not have access to the state’s home indemnity insurance scheme.

Ms Ellery said at the time mandatory inspections – included in this package — would assist with alleviating these issues.


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