By Gabriella Janu, Lawyer
A ban on high-risk materials for use in external wall cladding came into effect in Victoria on 1 February 2021 after the Victorian Minister for Planning Richard Wynne made a declaration pursuant to section 192B(1) of the Building Act 1993 (Vic).
The ban applies to all new multi-storey developments, including apartment buildings, hotels, aged care facilities and other residential buildings with two or more storeys, as well as office buildings and retail premises with three or more storeys. Importantly, the ban does not operate retrospectively, meaning it does not apply to any buildings for which a building permit was issued before 1 February 2021.
The decision to impose the ban was based on expert advice which found that aluminium composite panels and rendered expanded polystyrene could contribute to the spread of fire when installed incorrectly or misused. Banning these materials in the construction of new multi-storey developments is intended to reduce the risk of cladding fire incidents and keep Victorians safe.
A cost-benefit analysis commissioned by the Victorian Government found that the ban would result in a net economic benefit of around $1 million reduced insurance costs annually, due to a reduced risk to property damage attributable to combustible cladding.
The Victorian Building Authority, as Victorian’s building regulator, will enforce the cladding ban, and its associated penalties for non-compliance, including fines up to $400,000 for building companies and $80,000 for individuals.
The Minister for Planning has called on other states and territories, particularly the eastern states that have encountered similar combustible cladding issues to Victoria, to take a coordinated, national response to the issue by imposing a similar ban. In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by the Victorian Government to remove already installed high-risk cladding from buildings across the state, it is a further step towards providing certainty for building companies regarding acceptable cladding products and ensuring that all new developments are built to the highest standard.
However, whilst the Victorian Government contends that the ban will result in lower insurance premiums, the reality is that it will heighten fear among property owners and likely cause increased claims as owners look to recover the expenses associated with recladding buildings and compliance costs by seeking redress from building professionals and advisers.
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