A bill to enable greater oversight of the construction industry in California is a step closer to enactment, after passing a committee phase on Friday 12 August 2016.
In June 2015, six students lost their lives and seven others were seriously injured after a fourth floor apartment balcony collapsed during a 21st birthday party. It later emerged that the builder of the apartment complex had a long history of construction defect cases, and had paid over US$26.5million in numerous settlements.
The bill was drafted in response to campaigning by survivors of the Berkeley balcony collapse tragedy of June 2015 to publicise construction companies’ safety records and enable stronger regulatory control over companies with significant histories of defects. It initially attempted to require contractors to report all defective construction settlements and lawsuits to their industry regulator, the Contractors State License Board.
The initial draft bill was strongly opposed by members of the construction industry, who were successful in lobbying to have the bill amended. The result is a significantly ‘watered down’ bill that requires the Contractors State License Board to prepare a report regarding whether the public would be best served if contractors were required to report lawsuits or settlements based on allegations of defective building work, and to convene a working group to determine whether California needs to make its building standards tougher for construction, inspection and maintenance of residential balconies.
The bill will now have to pass a vote on the floor of the state assembly before returning to the state senate for a final vote.
In New Zealand, changes to the New Zealand Building Act which came into force on 1 January 2015 require a contractor to provide pre-contract disclosure where the work is over $30,000 or where the consumer asks for the information. This disclosure must be in the form prescribed by the regulations. There was some early discussion about this disclosure including a contractor’s legal or dispute resolution history. However, the current regulations, the Building (Residential Consumer Rights and Remedies) Regulations 2014, do not require this kind of information to be disclosed.