Deregistered builder hit with conviction, $30,000 fine for registration deception

Café under construction
A deregistered domestic builder with a history of dishonesty and deception has been convicted and fined $30,000 by the Frankston Magistrates’ Court for fraudulently obtaining a building permit and claiming to be a registered commercial builder.

Mr David Lee pleaded guilty on 21 May to two charges of providing false and misleading information to obtain a building permit and one charge of holding himself out to be a registered commercial builder. He has never been registered as a commercial builder with the Victorian Building Authority (VBA).

In July 2017, Mr Lee provided a Preston café owner with a quote for commercial building work that included the installation of partition walls and banquet seating. The work required a building permit, but Mr Lee assured the owner a permit was not required.

A month later, after building work had commenced, the project’s architect informed Mr Lee that a building permit was required and that he needed Mr Lee’s registration details for the building permit application. Unable to supply his own registration details, Mr Lee made enquiries and found a registered commercial builder named David Leeke. He provided Mr Leeke’s name and registration details for the building permit application and a permit was issued in August 2017 naming Mr Leeke as the builder.

A payment dispute between Mr Lee and the café owner saw the matter proceed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. It was through these proceedings that Mr Lee’s offending became known to Mr Leeke, who reported the matter to the VBA.

In sentencing Mr Lee, Magistrate Ross Betts said Victoria’s building practitioner registration requirements existed “to preserve public safety and the integrity of the building industry”. He also found Mr Lee’s offending to be “particularly serious” because of the dishonest use of another practitioner’s name.

The VBA’s Director of Compliance and Enforcement, Rosemary Martin, said Mr Lee had deliberately exploited Mr Leeke’s commercial building registration for his own advantage.

“Mr Lee knowingly used another practitioner’s registration information to obtain a building permit for work he was neither registered nor qualified to do,” said Ms Martin.

“His complete disregard for Victoria’s building regulations had the potential to tarnish another practitioner’s reputation and leave behind dangerous and non-compliant building work.

“The VBA will not hesitate to take similar action against any person who thinks they can carry out building work in Victoria without holding valid building registration.”

In February 2018, Mr Lee was deregistered as a Domestic Building Manager, disqualified from working in the industry for three years and fined $15,000 for 21 breaches of the Building Act.