What should I expect from building surveyors?
Last updated 8 May 2020
Last updated 8 May 2020
This fact sheet provides information about what you should expect from a building surveyor.
If you are engaged in a building project, or have a building dispute, you might be wondering what the role of the building surveyor is.
This fact sheet covers:
Building surveyors are engaged as part of the building process. A key part of their job is to provide independent oversight of the building work to ensure that it complies and that it’s safe.
The Building Act
In Victoria, the role of the building surveyor is set out in the Building Act 2003 (Victoria) (Building Act) and the Building Regulations 2006 (Victoria).
There are two types of building surveyor.
Builders can’t appoint private surveyors
Since 1 September 2016, builders can’t appoint private building surveyors on behalf of owners, and private building surveyors mustn’t accept appointments by builders.
Tip: Have you hired an architect or designer?
If you have hired an architect or designer to design your building work, check if your contract with the architect or designer includes an authority for that person to appoint a private building surveyor for you. Don’t agree to the authority unless you’re happy for the person to appoint a private building surveyor for you.
How you appoint a building surveyor will depend on if you are going to use a municipal building surveyor or a private building surveyor.
Only one building surveyor can be involved in a building project at a time. If two building surveyors are appointed at a time, this is an offence under the Building Act and can result in a fine.
Your domestic building contract will set out who is responsible for appointing the building surveyor
Tip: Municipal or private?
Decide whether you want to use a municipal building surveyor or a private building surveyor. If you want to use a private building surveyor, appoint that person before starting works which require a building surveyor.
If you use a municipal building surveyor, you don’t need to formally appoint them. They will be appointed by your council when you apply for a building permit.
If you use a municipal building surveyor, you can’t change your mind and use a private building surveyor. This is because the provisions of the Building Act which allow you to request consent to terminate the appointment of a private building surveyor don’t apply to municipal building surveyors.
This means, once the municipal building surveyor has started carrying out building surveying functions for a project, that person (or any person who replaces that person at your local council) must remain as the building surveyor for those building works.
If you want to use a private building surveyor, you or your agent will need to enter into a separate contract with that person. This can be by a professional service contract, or may be set out in a letter from the private building surveyor.
Make sure you understand the terms of the private building surveyor’s appointment before you agree to it or sign it.
You should make sure you:
Private building surveyors are independent
To ensure that private building surveyors are independent, they can’t accept an appointment if they have prepared the design of the building, or if they have a financial interest in the building or building work.
If you want to change your private building surveyor before a project has started, or before the work is complete, you need to notify the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) and your local council that the role has been transferred to a new private building surveyor.
When you notify the VBA about a transfer, you need to:
More information about transferring to a new private building surveyor, including copies of the forms that need to be completed, is available here.
If you want to end the appointment of your private building surveyor before the building work is complete you need the VBA’s consent.
Unless you are terminating a private building surveyor because you’re not proceeding with the building work, you need to identify a replacement private building surveyor who will take over the job. The new private building surveyor needs to provide a letter confirming they can take over the job.
To seek the consent of the VBA, you need to fill out an application form available here.
The VBA may give you or your agent a direction to facilitate the transfer of the services to your new building surveyor.
If you are unhappy with the way the VBA has dealt with your request to terminate your building surveyor, you might be able to appeal to the Building Appeals Board (see paragraph 3.3)
Disagreeing with a decision by your building surveyor isn’t sufficient grounds to terminate the engagement of your building surveyor.
Similarly, there must be no indication of a dispute between you and your building surveyor for the VBA to provide its consent to the termination of the engagement of the building surveyor.
Most complaints about building surveyors are dealt with by the Building Appeals Board (BAB). You might also be able to complain to the VBA.
Various types of complaints can be made against a building surveyor to the BAB. Complaints to the BAB about building surveyors generally relate to decisions about a permit or the building surveyor’s inspection of building works.
For example, a complaint could include where you disagree with the building surveyor’s:
Visit the Building Appeals Board’s website
The Building Appeals Board’s website includes helpful information about how to apply for an appeal, dispute or modification, including copies of the forms and lists of fees that apply.
In some circumstances you can complain to the VBA about your private building surveyor. This is because the VBA has authority to change or cancel the appointment of private building surveyors when:
The VBA doesn’t offer a dispute resolution service.
Some decisions the VBA makes can be appealed to the BAB. This includes where the VBA:
An appeal to the BAB is conducted as a “rehearing” about the issues, but the BAB may consider new matters in addition to those considered when the initial decision was made.
The BAB has broad powers to determine an appeal, including to affirm the previous decision, vary the decision, substitute its own decision or send the decision back to the initial decision maker along with directions or recommendations as to how the initial decision maker should consider that decision
If you are terminating your building surveyor for one site – VBA’s processing time is 30 working days (if you provide all of the relevant information with your application).
Check out the Building Appeals Board website (appeal applications) which includes helpful information on how to appeal a decision, including copies of the forms and lists of fees that apply.
If you have a dispute against your building surveyor and your builder, you may be eligible to apply to Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria (DBDRV) for dispute resolution. This can arise where, for example, you dispute the building surveyor’s decision to sign off on building works which you do not consider to be complete, and you are making a claim against the builder for the cost to finish the job.
If you have suffered a loss which you say was caused by the building surveyor, and the builder isn’t a part of that dispute, you may be able to apply directly to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
This resource was last updated on 8 May 2020. This is legal information only and does not constitute legal advice. You should always contact a lawyer for advice specific to your situation. Please view our disclaimer for more information.