Standards and tolerances

What is a defect?

The standards for building in the ACT are outlined in a range of documents, including the Building Act and National Construction Code. Where a building or part of a building does not meet these standards, and as agreed in the building contract, it may be considered defective. However, there are degrees of tolerance around some standards which affect whether something might be considered a defect or not. Disputes often arise when parties cannot agree on what constitutes a defect.

It can be difficult to determine when a deviation from precise requirements is acceptable, or when it is a defect. Some items may have very little scope for variance if a building is to be constructed or perform as required, while other items will still work well within wider limits.

This is why an allowable deviation, or 'tolerance', may be allowed or specified that is not considered to be a defect.

How do I know if my building has a defect?

For building work that needs a building approval, the first place to start is with your approval and any contract documents that may outline the standards the work was meant to meet.

You can also refer to relevant Acts and Regulation for applicable standards, including the building code, plumbing code and electrical and gasfitting standards. Manufacturers of products and materials may also have instructions and guides on how they must be used or installed. These can help you check if the work may be defective.

If you can't tell from the building approval, the contract documents, the relevant laws and standards, or manufacturer's information, you can use the Guide to Standards and Tolerances (PDF 2 MB) for residential buildings.

It's important to remember that where there is any difference between the Guide and building laws, the building approval or a building contract, all of these take precedence over the Guide. The Guide does not replace the requirements of the building approval, the contract documents, the relevant laws and standards, or manufacturer’s information. You should look to any laws, approval or requirement in your contract first to determine which may have the most stringent requirement. If they are not clear, Australian Standards and manufacturer's instructions can be useful to see if products and materials were installed as intended before you consider the general tolerances in the Guide.

Not all defects are serious enough to warrant regulatory action, but identifying whether something is a defect can help prevent or resolve disputes, including negotiating a good outcome with your builder.

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