Will owner builders in NSW be 2nd class?

The days of looking up to the man who built his own home with his own hands may be gone if a NSW Building Association is able to pass a law which effectively labels any renovation you do as 2nd Class.

Rules and regulations being pitted against the owner builder by the NSW Association may relegate the owner builder to 2nd tier status, a long way behind licensed building contractors.


A dying breed.

There’s no question that an increase in owner builders has led to a drop in the quantity of building contractors operating in New South Wales. Between 2003 and 2011 the total number of licensed builders dropped from 24,000 to approximately 8,000. If I made my living as a contractor, I’d be shaking in my boots if I was average at my craft or relishing it if I was a maverick.

However, while this is a sizable decline and perhaps a cause of concern to the building associations who are the problem it simply doesn’t make sense that owner builders ought to be punished, even demotivated, for nothing more than wishing to make improvements to their own private property.

In my opinion the logic here is simply backwards. Can you imagine if the restaurant industry lobbied to require all homeowners pass a food safety course before cooking dinner in their own kitchen?

“I’m sorry sir, but you’re going to have to shut down that barbecue grill until you can produce a license to prove you know how to turn on and off that gas valve.”

This analogy might seem absurd, but it’s not as far off reality as you might think. In order for an owner builder to get approval for even a simple project like putting up a fence, they need to do a course through a registered training organisation (RTO) to become owner builder certified and get their white card.

It is understandable there are some checks and balances to tighten the industry but these proposed regulations brand owner builder renovations clearly in the category of ‘backyarders’ and is a knee-jerk overreaction to protect its members and will overstep the boundary of what is fair and reasonable for homeowners.


It’s an uneven playing field, with the owner builder stuck at the bottom.

The proposed changes to legislation stipulates that a home renovated by an owner builder must specify on the title of the property that the house was an owner build. By virtue of this requirement, our government is implying that an owner build is inherently inferior to a commercially completed project.

The reality is that most owner built homes are arguably better designed, constructed with more pride and possess greater long term sustainability. Who’s going to put more love and attention to detail into their work; a homeowner building the home of his dreams to raise his family in, or a trades person with no vested interest in the long term viability of the construction?

The Building Associations would like us to believe that owner builders are unsafe and don’t know what they are doing, but it is plain to see that the Association has a legitimate interest in convincing homeowners they are incapable of building or renovating their own property to equitable standards. Under the guise of “safety” checks, national Building Associations are serving the ulterior motive of saving their own necks and their 44,000 members from future instability.

If owner builders are discouraged from the outset the facts say people who may not build will, in time, sell the property as it no longer meets their needs. The Building Association would hope the new owner of the property would have the funds to use a Building Contractor in 5 -10 years time.

The other side of this scenario is if it becomes increasing difficult to comply to the law the homeowner doesn’t take out a council permit or insurances and the renovation goes underground.

It’s interesting to note most building contractors are off the tools anyway and traditionally coordinate the separate components of the build by making sure the individual tradespeople are present and on time to complete their agreed tasks. It’s nothing more than a fabricated farce to say that owner builders naturally lack the craftsmanship of the builders-for-hire.

Sure, owner builders ought to have their work inspected by the building inspectors just the same as a contractor’s would, but it is unreasonable to ask homeowners to jump through the same number of hoops and pay the same fees as someone who makes their living in the construction business.


Let’s cut owner builders a little slack.

Australia prides itself on being a nation that values the notion of having a go above all else, and one would think that allowing a home owner to build or renovate their own home would fall under the umbrella of this philosophy. These days the right to operate a construction business trumps Joe Citizen’s freedom to make his home has castle as he sees fit.

Unfortunately, in the case of the owner builder vs. the building industry, with the proposed law in New South Wales we may be chalking one point for the Building Associations.

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