As many of you would already know, in June 2020 the Victorian Building Authority published the final version of the Code of Conduct for Building Surveyors in Victoria, which will commence on 1 January 2021. This was developed with input from AIBS and the public through a public consultation process earlier this year and we note that most of the recommendations for improvement that we made were adopted. The Code applies to any building surveyor undertaking a statutory role either in public or private practice, and also applies to consultant building surveyors in non-statutory roles if they are relying on their registration as a building surveyor, or engaged to provide services because they are registered as a building surveyor.
Members have contacted AIBS with concerns about specific elements of the code, noting both the mandatory nature of the Code and issues they have identified with meeting certain requirements. The Code achieves mandatory status by the authority of Division 2, Part 11 of the Building Act 1993, specifically Section 177A(1)(a). Failure to comply with the Code is a contravention of Section 177D of the Building Act 1993 which gives rise to the potential for disciplinary action to be taken pursuant to Section 178.
You could lose your registration if you do not comply with the Code.
The Code is based on eight principles and contains requirements which set out what you must or must not do to satisfy the principles of the Code. We have been contacted by some members who are concerned about their billing practices and how this might be viewed in respect of principle 1 – Act in accordance with the law and in the public interest.
Some private practitioners are not requiring payment for their engagement prior to commencing work related to that engagement, which is inconsistent with Building Act requirements and, in addition to being an offence, contravenes the Code.
It is critical that private building surveyors who are engaged to undertake a statutory role demand to be paid up front. This does two things. Firstly, it fosters a culture within the industry that statutory building surveying services are not the same as services provided by contractors or design consultants, which is important because the role is regulatory, nothing less. Secondly, it strengthens the integrity of the role – you have been paid to assess a proposal, not to issue a permit – and nothing should get in the way of you expressing your view about the standard of conformity achieved.
We take this opportunity to alert all members to the need to review your working or business practices, particularly to ensure appropriate systems are in place which:
- comply with all laws;
- support integrity, objectivity and impartiality;
- detect and prevent engagements that exceed expertise and experience;
- identify the mere potential for conflicts of interest or an impression of compromised impartiality so that actual conflicts or hindered impartiality are avoided;
- diligently address document management requirements;
- are effective at delivering required communication in a timely way; and
- manage complaints.
Only by strict conformity with the highest standards of conduct can the building surveying profession offer value to the community, and therefore justify the longevity of the role building surveyors play in the construction industry. There is no doubt that building surveyors are important in this process and as governments around Australia are again becoming more alert to this, your conduct will also become increasingly relevant to your ability to continue to practice in the industry.
As part of our unwavering commitment to support members to reach the highest possible standards of conduct and integrity, AIBS will offer training to support members to reach a comprehensive understanding of the Code of Conduct for Building Surveyors in Victoria 2020, inclusive of management techniques that are relevant to assuring ongoing compliance. An email will be sent to all members when this training becomes available.
Meanwhile, if members are experiencing any issues or difficulties arising from the requirements of the Code, please contact the VBA to seek clarity.