The tragic incident at Grenfell Tower last year put the issue of building cladding into sharp focus. Queensland’s government responded and, from 1 October 2018, private building owners must comply with new obligations regarding combustible cladding under changes to the Building Regulation 2006 (Qld). This regulation aims to identify and rectify ‘at risk’ buildings. While compliance could be costly and inconvenient, it is seen as a small price to pay compared to the benefit of avoiding a Queensland tragedy on the scale of the Grenfell Tower.
The changes impact many private building owners, and consequently the wonderful world of leasing (including actual and potential tenants as well as sellers and buyers of businesses and buildings). The regulations will also impact approximately 1,200 residential buildings in Queensland. This article explores who will be captured; what needs to be done to comply with the new regulations and what the potential practical impacts might be in relation to leasing.
What is a ‘private building’?
Private buildings are fairly and squarely in the eye of this new regulation. A private building is a class 2-9 building of Type A or Type B construction where development approval was given between 1 January 1994 and 1 October 2018. Information about building classification can be found at: QBCC Building Classification Information.
What do I have to do?
The new regulations are live which means that, although there is time, the clock is definitely ticking. The ‘must know’ steps and dates are as follows:
- Complete the basic checklist/registration online: Register online at https://www.saferbuildings.qld.gov.au/ and answer some straight forward questions about the building in question. This must be done by 29 March 2019, and the checklist is required to be maintained for at least 7 years.
- Upload the statement by the building industry professional: Engage a building industry professional to answer some technical questions about whether the building is Type A or B, and in relation to whether the building uses combustible material. This is not required if the owner knows or suspects that the building has combustible cladding and notifies the QBCC. This must be done by 29 March 2019, and the statement is required to be maintained for at least 7 years.
- Fire safety risk assessment: If there is actual or suspected combustible cladding, a fire engineer must be engaged to identify the type of material, quantity of building coverage, assessment of sufficiency of safety measures and rectification/risk mitigation measures which should occur. The identity of the fire engineer needs to be notified to QBCC by 27 August 2019, and the assessment, checklist and fire engineer statement needs to be uploaded by 3 May 2021. These documents must be maintained for 7 years.
- Notification and Rectification: Within 60 days of receiving the fire engineer’s report, it will be necessary to display an approved form of notice and provide copies of the report to certain affected parties. In addition, upon sale of a private building, it is necessary to notify the buyer of the status of compliance and notify the QBCC of the notice given to the new owner.
What does it mean for leasing process/practice?
There are a number of impacts that are relevant to owners of private buildings used for leasing:
- The tenant must be given a copy of the cladding report when available (unless rectification occurs within a particular timeframe.
- If a landlord wishes to sell the building, compliance with these provisions will be relevant (and likely included in building warranties). In addition, smart buyers will be using their due diligence to look to assess the impact of rectification works on a tenant’s lease.
- Forward thought should be given to updating precedent leases to deal with potential disruption in trading due to rectification of combustible cladding.
- The terms of insurance should be considered. For example, is insurance coverage affected if the existence of combustible cladding is located?