Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Victorian Government doing about the combustible cladding issue?
On behalf of the Victorian Government, the VBA is leading a statewide audit of:
- apartment complexes, motels and hotels (three storeys and above);
- buildings where Victorians gather as a large group, such as sporting areas; and
- private schools, private hospitals and aged care facilities (two storeys and above).
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is leading an audit of government buildings in Victoria.
How can I find out if my building has combustible cladding attached to it?
Firstly, you should speak to your owners’ corporation or building manager. They will know if the building has been audited, and what the results were.
If your building has not been audited, you can ask them to request building documents, such as permits and drawings, from your local council or the relevant building surveyor. This may provide additional information about the building materials used in your apartment complex.
If your building is found to have at-risk cladding, it does not necessarily mean your building is unsafe.
I live in/own an apartment in a building that is more than three storeys high. Will my apartment complex be audited?
If your building was built after March 1997 and is three or more storeys high, it is likely your building will be assessed. Due to the number of assessments required, the VBA is unable to give an indication of when this will be. Your owners’ corporation will be advised before an inspection takes place, and residents will be informed on the day of the inspection.
I own a two-storey townhouse in Victoria. Will my building be audited?
Two-storey townhouses will not be audited by the VBA, as they are less than three storeys in height and are typically not Class 2 buildings (apartment complexes and multi-residential buildings).
As a building owner, you can request your building’s plans and drawings from your local council. You are also entitled to seek advice from a private building surveyor or fire engineer about the status of your building. Regardless of the outcome, now is a good time to review the fire safety measures in your home.
I am thinking about buying an apartment. How do I find out if it has combustible cladding on it?
To assist your research, here are ten steps you can take prior to purchasing an apartment in Victoria.
Can I request an inspection of my building?
If you have concerns about the use of cladding on your building, please contact your owners’ corporation or building manager. You may consider seeking expert advice from a private building surveyor or fire engineer.
Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of fire in my apartment building?
Yes. You should follow the MFB’s fire safety advice for balconies and high-rise apartment buildings. You should also speak with your building manager or owners’ corporation about fire safety and ensure your building’s essential safety measures are up to date and properly maintained. Essential safety measures include fire doors, sprinklers, smoke and heat detectors, and fire hydrants.
How will I know if the VBA is going to inspect my building?
You should receive a letter from the VBA on the day of inspection.
Prior to the inspection taking place, owners’ corporations and landlords will also be informed.
Where possible, the VBA aims to give as much notification as possible to owners’ corporations – at least 48 hours.
Your owners’ corporation will be asked to actively inform residents about the inspections, and to provide fire safety tips for your home and balcony.
What happens during the inspection?
A building inspector visits your building and meets your building owner or owners’ corporation.
Your council’s Municipal Building Surveyor or a representative may also attend.
The inspector assesses cladding from the street and inside common areas, and records the results.
The inspector may ask if they can enter your apartment to assess cladding. They will show you official identification and explain why they are requesting entry. If you agree, you will be asked to sign a form that allows the VBA inspector to enter.
What happens after the inspection?
A panel of experts form an advisory reference panel and review information collected during the inspection.
The panel of experts typically includes:
- A fire safety engineer
- A fire safety emergency expert from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) or Country Fire Authority (CFA); and
- A building surveyor.
The experts will analyse the results and, if required, recommend steps to reduce the fire safety risk of your building.
These steps will be communicated to your owners’ corporation and your council’s Municipal Building Surveyor. The VBA will request that your owners’ corporation or building owner keeps you informed of inspection results.
This may include recommending the Municipal Building Surveyor issues notices or orders to improve the fire safety of the building.
Residents will be advised of the outcome in the weeks after the advisory reference panel is held.
If urgent actions are required following an advisory reference panel, building managers and residents will be informed immediately.
What advice is there for building owners, owners’ corporations and facilities managers?
Visit the VBA’s resources for owners’ corporations webpage for advice.
Recommended fire safety actions for building owners, owners’ corporations and facilities managers are outlined in a Victorian Cladding Taskforce advisory note. This note includes a fire safety checklist and guidelines for general building safety and risk assessments.
What is expanded polystyrene (EPS)?
Read the VBA’s fact sheet on expanded polystyrene.
What is an aluminium composite panel (ACP)?
Read the VBA’s fact sheet on aluminium composite panels.
What is the issue with using aluminium composite panels (ACP) or expanded polystyrene (EPS) on buildings?
These products are combustible and therefore a fire hazard, particularly on multi-storey buildings.
The Metropolitan Fire Brigade found that aluminium composite panels contributed to the rapid spread of the Lacrosse Tower fire in 2014.
Expanded polystyrene is combustible and may melt or ignite when exposed to temperatures above 100°C or an open flame.
Expanded polystyrene may also increase the risk of building collapse during a fire.
What is a building notice? What is a building order?
Building notices and orders are generally issued by a council’s municipal building surveyor.
A building notice asks building owners to demonstrate how they will bring a building into compliance with the National Construction Code.
If the response to the building notice does not adequately address the identified issues, a building order may be issued.
The building order will set out the works required to bring the building into compliance with the National Construction Code, and when they need to be completed by.
Failure to meet the terms of the building order can lead to the building owner (or owners) being prosecuted.
If the required work is completed and signed off by the municipal building surveyor, the building order will be removed.
What is an emergency order?
Emergency orders are issued by a council’s municipal building surveyor.
If your building is considered to present an immediate threat to your safety, your local council’s municipal building surveyor has the power to order you to evacuate.
Evacuations are a last resort.
To prevent an evacuation, the municipal building surveyor may:
- Order the installation of additional early warning systems;
- Order regular training for occupants on how to evacuate the building efficiently;
- Order the engagement of a fire warden;
- Closely monitor the maintenance of all essential safety measures to ensure they are operational; and
- Enhance the maintenance schedule for essential safety measures.
What is the National Construction Code?
The National Construction Code is an initiative of the Council of Australian Governments that incorporates all on-site building and plumbing requirements into a single code.
The National Construction Code specifies the minimum requirements for the design, construction and performance of buildings throughout Australia. It contains three volumes:
- Volume One, Building Code of Australia – Class 2 to Class 9 buildings
- Volume Two, Building Code of Australia – Class 1 and Class 10 buildings
- Volume Three, Plumbing Code of Australia
What does a "non-compliant use of cladding" mean?
The type of cladding used on a building doesn’t comply with the fire safety standards specified in the National Construction Code.
Can a building be safe to live in, but also non-compliant?
Yes. If a Municipal Building Surveyor considers a building safe to live in, despite that building using cladding materials in a non-compliant way, residents may continue to live in that building.
If this is the case, the Municipal Building Surveyor has made an assessment and found that:
- the building’s fire safety measures (fire alarms, sprinkler systems, emergency warning systems, etc.) offset the risks of a fire event; or
- cladding on the building is minimal and of low-risk.
What fire safety measures do Australian buildings have?
Common fire safety measures in buildings such as apartments, hotels and hospitals include:
- fire sprinkler systems
- emergency warning systems
- emergency lighting
- emergency exit signage
- fire isolated exit stairs
- fire extinguishers
- multiple exits; and
- fire and smoke alarms.
Regulating Victoria’s building industry
Can you explain the shared responsibility in regulating Victoria’s building industry?
Regulating Victoria’s building industry is a shared responsibility reliant on co-operation, information sharing and accountability.
- Private building surveyors are primarily responsible for ensuring buildings are built in compliance with the building legislation, safe, accessible and energy efficient. Once appointed they are involved for the duration of the building project, issue the building permit if they are satisfied the design is compliant, carry out or organise mandatory inspections and are responsible for issuing occupancy permits or certificates of final inspection.
- Local government has oversight of all building work and building stock within their municipality and is responsible for addressing emergency situations. This oversight includes the use of statutory powers to ensure compliance with the Building Act.
- The VBA has oversight of registered builders and building surveyors. It can also take disciplinary or prosecutorial action for breaches of the building legislation.
A building surveyor is professionally trained in understanding the building control process. There are two types of building surveyor:
- Private building surveyors, and
- Municipal building surveyors
They are responsible for assessing building plans with a view to ensuring they comply with building legislation and the National Construction Code.
A registered building surveyor is authorised to:
- Assess building permit applications for compliance with the Building Act 1993, Building Interim Regulations 2017 and the National Construction Code;
- Issue building and occupancy permits and certificates of final inspection;
- Conduct building inspections at the mandatory notification stages;
- Serve directions to fix non-compliant building work; and
- Serve building notices and orders under the Building Act 1993.
The VBA monitors and enforces compliance with building legislation. The conduct of registered building practitioners is a primary focus. If a building surveyor does not meet certain standards, the VBA becomes involved. An example is outlined in the VBA’s media release: Building surveyor loses battle to avoid cancellation of registration.
The VBA has the power to:
- Bring proceedings for any offence against building legislation;
- Apply for and execute search warrants;
- Require the production of documents or the giving of information to determine compliance with the Building Act or Regulations;
- Act as a municipal building surveyor in relation to any matter referred to the VBA by a private building surveyor; and
- Direct a municipal building surveyor or private building surveyor to carry out their functions.
Local government must appoint, employ or nominate a municipal building surveyor. The municipal building surveyor is often the first party to whom non-compliance with building legislation is reported by members of the community.
Local government has the power to:
- Administer and enforce building permits issued by the MBS;
- Act in circumstances where building work without a building permit has been identified by council;
- Take appropriate action where there is a known risk to health or risk of injury or death;
- Receive copies of building permits, occupancy permits, notices and orders from private building surveyors and maintain a register of these matters;
- Provide information as prescribed by the building regulations;
- Apply for and execute search warrants;
- Require the production of documents or the giving of information to determine compliance with building legislation; and
- Bring proceedings for offences under Part 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 of the Building Act 1993.
Victorian Building Authority appointed as Municipal Building Surveyor for certain buildings
What is the role of a Municipal Building Surveyor?
A Municipal Building Surveyor (MBS) is responsible for enforcing building standards and carrying out regulatory functions under the Building Act 1993 in their municipal district.
Councils are required to appoint a Municipal Building Surveyor to perform these duties within their local government area. In special circumstances, the Minister for Planning may appoint the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) as MBS for a particular building, or class of building.
How do I know if the VBA is MBS for my building?
We are in the process of contacting all affected owners’ corporations to advise them that the VBA is now the MBS for their building. We will also contact owners and meet with them over the coming weeks.
Will the VBA be the MBS for the entire building or just the external cladding?
Our focus will be on cladding and related-safety matters, but we won’t ignore other hazards which come to our attention during our normal audit activities.
When will the council become the MBS again?
This is at the discretion of the Minister for Planning. However, it is unlikely that this will occur before a building’s cladding is fixed.
Are the buildings that the VBA is MBS for safe to live in?
Yes. Your former MBS likely required short term safety measures to be adopted after an expert panel assessed your building. These are likely to be temporary measures. We urge you to follow these fire safety actions to reduce the risk of fire.
- You should remove potential ignition sources from areas that have cladding, such as barbecues, cars, ashtrays etc.
- Keep clothing and other materials away from air conditioning units.
- Turn off anything that uses electricity near or through the cladding.
- Make sure you have working smoke alarms in your apartment and in common areas of the building.
- Learn your building’s fire escape plan.
- Make sure fire doors and emergency exits are clear and accessible.
- Ensure rubbish or combustible materials do not build up near areas that have cladding.
Why did the Government make the VBA the MBS for my building?
Making the VBA the MBS for these buildings will ensure a consistent and coordinated response. For more information, you can read the October announcement made by the VBA’s CEO Sue Eddy.
When will the cladding be fixed?
When we agree that the cladding and fire safety issues outlined in the building notice or order have been resolved. Once the required work is completed and signed off by the MBS, the building order/notice will be removed.
What can I expect will happen first?
A community liaison officer will arrange a meeting with your owners’ corporation to discuss the next steps. We will work closely with owners’ corporations throughout the entire process.
The advice of suitably experienced building practitioners will be required. Depending on the circumstances, your owners’ corporation may need to engage some, or all of the following types of practitioners:
- Building surveyor
- Quantity surveyor
- Draftsperson / designer / architect
- Project manager.
What should I look for when engaging building professionals?
- Confirm they are registered and qualified to undertake building work on multi-storey buildings.
- Ask to see physical examples of their work and to speak with previous clients.
- Seek multiple quotes and multiple opinions.
- Select a building surveyor who is independent of the builder.
- Read the information on Consumer Affairs Victoria’s website before signing a contract with your builder, to ensure it meets legal requirements.
- Ensure your builder is a member of an industry body. While not essential, many reputable builders are industry association members.
What are some possible scenarios for fixing the cladding on a building?
Under the expert advice of a suitably experienced building practitioner, possible results include:
- Complete replacement of combustible cladding with a suitable product.
- Partial replacement of combustible cladding around specific areas such as balconies and exits.
- Other approved measures to prevent the spread of fire and ensure safe exit from the building. These may include actions such as upgrading sprinkler systems, isolating stairwells and removing ignition sources.
Other than the fire risk, what other issues will I face while combustible cladding remains on my building?
Public safety is the number one reason why the cladding needs to be fixed. However, it is likely that building owners will face increased insurance premiums while combustible cladding remains on the building. The presence of combustible cladding may also impact on the value of a building, and the ability to sell an apartment.
Why is the cladding an issue on my building?
The cladding is a fire hazard. Expanded polystyrene and aluminium composite panels with a polymer core increase the risk of fire spread, particularly on multi-storey buildings. Generally, these products are not permitted to be used on the exterior of a building.
Where can I find information on low-interest funding for cladding?
You can read our fact sheet on cladding rectification agreements on our website.
Who can I contact about the VBA being the MBS for my building?
If you live in an affected building, please contact your owners’ corporation in the first instance. You can also contact us by calling 1300 815 127, chatting with us via LiveChat on our website or by submitting an online enquiry.