(Un)Licensed To Build

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Published by Preston Law on 11/05/2021

If you don’t have a driver’s licence, you shouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car.  If you don’t have a heavy vehicle licence, you shouldn’t operate a big rig.

Licensing helps ensure that you have a basic level of competency and knowledge about the (possibly dangerous) task you’re about to perform before you do it.

It’s the same with building and construction work – no one should perform building or construction work unless they are appropriately skilled, qualified, and licensed, for the particular type of work, e.g. building, electrical, plumbing etc.

In fact, it’s illegal under the Queensland Building & Construction Commission Act 1991 (QBCC Act) to carry out or to agree or enter into a contract to carry out, building and construction work unless you are licensed to do that work. Breaches carry penalties of fines of up to $46,000, or possible prison terms of 1 year for repeat offenders.

It’s the job of the QBCC to oversee the building and construction industry in Queensland, and that includes making sure builders and contractors hold the appropriate licence for the work they are performing.

The QBCC has the power to investigate suspected breaches, to order work to stop, to fine people and businesses for unlicensed building work, and to order breaching parties to pay compensation.

The QBCC has recently fired a warning shot to the industry, by taking action resulting in huge fines to two non-compliant contractors.   Recently, a Brisbane company was given a fine of over $13,000 because they constructed patios in Queensland without having the proper licence to do that work, while a pest controller was fined $6,500 in the Ingham Magistrates Court.

As a builder, as you all should know, it is your responsibility to ensure you are properly licensed for work you carry out, or work you agree/contract to carry out.  

Most builders will do the right thing and only do building work for which they are licensed, but they should be aware of the risk of fines and action if they don’t.

It is also important for builders to know that if they are not licensed to carry out particular building and construction work, the QBCC Act provides that you cannot charge or recover any amount for your labour or any profit, and you may only charge for the costs of material and (employee/subcontractor) labour to the extent those charges were reasonable.  This could leave you thousands in the hole, in addition to possible fines.

Consumers should also be aware that any builder you engage should be properly licensed, and you can perform a ‘QBCC Licence Search’ on the QBCC website to verify that.

All contracts should correctly identify the building contractor and state the contractor’s QBCC Licence Number, as well as properly describe the work, scope, and contract price (among other things).

The experienced, qualified, and practical lawyers in the Preston Law building and construction team can assist you with any issues you have in this regard, and perform a ‘health check’ on your contract and systems, to help avoid any sticky situations.

If you have concerns, queries, or have a building contract dispute, please contact our building and construction legal team today. 

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