If financial assistance has been provided to building owners by Cladding Safety Victoria, the Crown obtains rights of subrogation, empowering the State of Victoria to bring proceedings against the relevant building practitioners responsible for the installation of non-compliant cladding. This will allow the recovery of the rectification costs granted in financial assistance.

 

Extension of limitation period

To facilitate anticipated recovery proceedings by Cladding Safety Victoria and the State of Victoria, s 53 of the CSV Bill amends s 134 of the Building Act to extend the period in which a building action may be brought from 10 years to 12 years where the building action is a “cladding building action”.

The extended period relates only to “cladding building actions” that would otherwise have been time-barred in the period between 16 July 2019 to 12 months after the CSV Bill is passed (note: the CSV Bill’s default commencement date is currently 1 July 2021) and s 53 comes into force.

A cladding building action under the CSV Bill means, “a building action in connection with, or otherwise related to, a product or material that is, or could be, a non-compliant or non-conforming external wall cladding product.” It is not limited in any way to flammable or combustible cladding claims.

 

Conclusion

In the midst of a stage 4 lockdown and in circumstances where COVID is making it increasing difficult for the construction industry to be paid whilst at the same time the industry is absorbing significant additional risks and costs for projects, the Victorian Government has sought to introduce legislation to retrospectively extend limitation periods. Obviously safety is important and the extension only pertains to “cladding building actions”. However, the issues associated with cladding have been known for at least six years, which in normal circumstances would be the limitation period. It is accordingly difficult to see any justification for legislation that retroactively denies basic protections that would normally be available to the construction industry simply to bestow on the Government subrogation rights that otherwise had already expired.

The CSV Bill is in the final stages of review, with the second reading speech having been moved in the Legislative Assembly 4 September 2020, and is expected back before Parliament soon.

 

Key takeaways

If passed, the CSV Bill will establish Cladding Safety Victoria as a separate body corporate, responsible for overseeing the cladding rectification program.

  • The rectification program will include, among other things, the provision of financial assistance to building owners to facilitate rectification works and, where financial assistance is provided, will grant the Victorian Government subrogation rights in order to commence recovery proceedings.
  • The CSV Bill will retrospectively extend the limitation period for bringing a building action from 10 years to 12 years if the action is a ‘cladding building action’ and has become time-barred in the period between 16 July 2019 to 12 months after the commencement of the CSV Bill.

 

Megan CalderIf you would like further information or advice, Megan is contactable via email at MCalder@piperalderman.com.au or by telephone +61 3 8665 5548, Piper Alderman.