Owners of private and local government buildings in the Mackay region must meet new state-wide obligations to undertake a mandatory three stage process to identify if a building has ‘combustible cladding’.

Under the new process, if a building is found to have combustible cladding, owners must put in place any relevant safety measures or undertake rectification work.

Combustible cladding is material used on exterior walls which is flammable, including Aluminium Composite Panels. These panels have a thin layer of thermoplastic called polyethylene, which is highly flammable, encased between aluminium sheets.

The new process, introduced by the Building and Other Legislation (Cladding) Amendment Regulation 2018, aims to identify buildings in Queensland that may have potentially combustible cladding. The legislation was enacted following recent building fire tragedies here and abroad, including the Lacrosse apartment building in Melbourne and the Grenfell Towers in England.

To assist with the process, the Queensland Government has launched the ‘Safer Buildings’ website, which will be the portal through which building owners register and begin the new statutory three stage process, which starts with the ‘combustible cladding checklist’. The Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) manages the online checklist and register.

The new obligations take effect from 1 October 2018 and the checklist will apply to owners of buildings that:
  • Are class 2 to 9 buildings;
  • Are of Type A or Type B construction; and
  • Were given development approval to build, or to alter the cladding, after 1 January 1994 but before 1 October 2018.
Residential houses are class 1 buildings and are exempt from undertaking the audit. If a property owner is unsure of the class or type of construction of their property, they should engage a building certifier or discuss the requirements of the legislation with a solicitor. A factsheet on building classifications can be viewed on the QBCC website by clicking here.
Whilst all properties in the classifications listed must complete the checklist, those constructed of brick, concrete and/or steel sheeting only (with no encasing) will find they will not have to progress through phases 2 and 3. Accordingly many industrial buildings in the Mackay region will not have combustible cladding.

The three stages are as follows:

Phase 1: From 1 October 2018, owners of buildings that fit the above description are required to complete and submit an online checklist by 29 March 2019.

Phase 2: If the checklist indicates that the building cladding warrants further investigation, the owner will be required to complete a further checklist and submit a statement prepared by a building industry professional to the QBCC by 29 May 2019. This step can be bypassed if an owner is certain the building has combustible cladding.

Phase 3: The Commission will review the information disclosed and may require that the owner engage a fire engineer to test the cladding to determine its composition and assess and report on whether rectification or additional fire safety measures are necessary. The Commission will then determine the corrective action to be taken.

An owner must keep copies of the documents for at least seven years after copies are given to the QBCC. If the building changes ownership during any phase of the audit, the outgoing owner must inform the new owner as to the status of the audit, and pass on copies of all relevant documents.

They must also give the QBCC a copy of the notice given to the new owner.

Failure to meet each requirement of the checklist, including actions required after stage 3 and ownership changes, can result in fines of up to $21,540.75.

Once the third phase is complete, an owner of a building which has combustible material must display an “affected private building notice” on the property in accordance with the approved form available from the QBCC.

The notice must be displayed in a visible position near the main entry to the building, securely attached to a wall or inside of a door (as well as near the fire indicator panel). The notice must be displayed within 60 business days from the first safety risk assessment being received and remain displayed until the combustible cladding is removed, or is certified as being compliant with the BCA. Failure to comply with this can result in fines of up to $3,916.50.

If the building is part of a body corporate, then the report must be given to each owner and tenant in the building, failure to do so can result in fines of up to $2,611.00.

Real estate agents and body corporate managers should ensure that property owners under their management are aware of the requirements to register their buildings and undertake the checklist.

Visit the QBCC website or the Safer Buildings website for further details.

Please contact one of solicitors for legal advice regarding your obligations.