Building Inspection – Compliance not Quality

Role of Building Surveyor

One of the key misunderstandings by new house buyers is the role of the building surveyor with respect to building quality of their New House.

Many consumers  believe that inspections by building surveyors against the minimum standards of the ‘Regulations’ are also an inspection of work quality specified in the contract.

This belief is incorrect, some of the key objectives of compliance with regulation are:

    • To protect the safety and health of people who use buildings and places of public entertainment; and
    • To facilitate the cost effective construction and maintenance of buildings and plumbing systems.

House Build Contract

The House contract between the owner and the builder for a new house construction includes the following aims.

  1. To provide for the maintenance of proper standards in the carrying out of domestic building work in a way that is fair to both builders and building owners; and
  2. To enable building owners to have access to insurance funds if domestic building work under a major domestic building contract is incomplete or defective.

An example of the differences would be:

If a builder ran out of bricks during the project and finished the wall off with another type of bricks.

  • As far as the building surveyor was concerned the wall would be structurally sound and would therefore meet the objectives of the regulations.
  • As far as, you the owner, is concerned a wall of two different types of bricks would definitely not be what you required.

Your remedy however, would be through your building contract, NOT the regulations.


For more posts about quality see Gettting It Right


Originally posted in 2011, updated 2022


  1. Austen

    Is there any reason a building inspector, while inspecting for defects, could not also note on their report deviations from the work quality specified in the contract ?

    An example….An energy report stipulates that the building must have R2.0 insulation.

    The owner specifies that he wants to upgrade to R4.0

    Given that the R2.0 insulation as fitted DOES comply with the standards required, why wouldn’t the inspector note on their report that the insulation fitted was not as specified by the owner ?

    It seems to me the the building inspector is supposed to be working for THE OWNER and as such should prepare a true and accurate report on the house as presented and not permit the builder to cover up specified work that was not completed.

    1. Brian Ashworth (Post author)

      Hi Austen.
      The Statutory Building Inspections to ensure compliance are normally paid for by the builder. I know its your money that’s paying the builder, but the builder appoints him and actually makes the payment so he is working for the builder. As such the builder makes sure the inspector only inspects to the regulations – not to the contract which may be quite different.

      For instance in the inspectors check sheet The question may be

      Does the insulation meet the standard? YES/NO

      There is nothing to stop you either doing additional inspections yourself, or appointing a separate inspector to make sure the upgrades meet your requirements. However its probably going to cost you around $500 an inspection.

      I’m sure its not what you want to hear but that’s the current situation

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