Owner Builder Construction Should be Outlawed

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The owner builder system of residential construction is entrenched in Australia.  It seems to be like a rite of passage, or a God given right for the house owner who has never had any building experience.

Government endorses it, popular media such as TV reality shows promote it (and make it look easy and quick), and big box hardware retail stores maybe would struggle to stay open without it.  As popular as it is, the owner builder system is a problem.

The reason for this is that unqualified people are designing and building houses.  This would be acceptable for maybe a new fence or retiling the bathroom, but for a whole building, it is a disaster.  Buildings are massively complex, expensive and resource consuming, and they are used and lived with by numerous people over many decades.  The health of our society and the environment as a whole, depends significantly on having good quality buildings, and the owner builder system opposes this.

It can be argued that an owner has the right to do with their house as they please.  For most things, freedom of choice is expected and rightly so, so long as people don’t harm others.  However, there are many things in life that unqualified people can’t do by law.  Unqualified building of houses should be one of them.

Logically speaking, allowing a person to design and build a house is absurd.  What do people do when their car gets a flat tyre?  They go to a garage to have it fixed.  What about when their shoe sole has a hole in it and they want to keep the shoe?  They take it to a shoe repair shop.  What happens when they want to build one of the most complex, time and resource consuming, and expensive things on the planet that an average person has access to, that is build a modern house, we let them do it.

There are no advantages in letting the unqualified build a house, and the notion that it is their right is flawed.  There are many reasons why it should be outlawed, including;

  • Building is complex and expensive. An inexperienced owner builder makes complex and expensive mistakes, making them a victim of the system,
  • Neighbours can become victims, sometimes enduring years of weekend construction noise, odors and dust (my neighbor has been at it for over 10 years, and that is a simple build not requiring building approval),
  • Inappropriate construction insurance and other insurance can leave the owner open to serious legal problems,
  • The owner needs to deal directly with subcontractors (which can range from 10 to 15 in number) and their lack of experience and leadership in dealing with subcontractors can lead to contractual disputes,
  • The notion that the owner builder saves money is false economy, because sub-contractors will quote more for this work as it is one-off and can be very inefficient for them, and industry buying power and supplier credit is absent,
  • Going on from the last item, the owners lack of experience will result in excessive mistakes and time taken to build which increases construction costs and can increase finance costs,
  • Going on from the last item again, the excessive time an owner takes to build can cause loss of their regular income,
  • The excessive time an owner takes and mistakes made result in personal and family stress, and stress in their regular job or occupation.
  • The owners inexperience contributes to poor quality work which others including unsuspecting future buyers, have to live with or change at great cost financially and psychologically,
  • The likely poor quality work can negatively affect resale value and buyers are often wary of these houses.

Maybe it’s time to protect owners from themselves, and protect society from them.  Outlaw the owner builder system now.


Article as appeared in Soureable

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