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Emergency repairsĀ 

Storms, floods and natural disasters are sudden and unexpected events for which people are usually unprepared. This is also often a time when emergency repairs need to be carried out. Soon after such a disaster, affected consumers are highly vulnerable, and need to be wary of unlicensed tradespeople looking to cash in on severe storm damage.

Emergency residential building work usually means the correction of defective structural work or faulty specialist work which:

  1. if not attended to as soon as possible, poses danger to the health and safety of people, or risk to property, in or near the dwelling
  2. could not be done promptly if time had to be given to writing a contract.

Under the Home Building Act 1989, a person who has agreed to do residential building work must:

  • hold an appropriate licence or authority for doing and contracting to do residential building work where the labour and materials content is valued over $5,000, and for doing any specialist work (eg. electrical, plumbing, gasfitting) regardless of value
  • except in the extremely urgent emergency situations referred to below under Contracts, give the homeowner a written contract containing prescribed information, where the value of the contracted work (including labour and materials) is more than $5,000
  • arrange insurance under the Home Building Compensation Fund and give to the homeowner a certificate of that insurance before starting any work and before taking any money on the contract, where the value of the contracted work is more than $20,000
  • (subject to the above) not take a deposit of more than 10% of the contract price.

Temporary scaffolding/shoring

In some instances in emergency work (eg. temporary shoring work) to make a structure safe, is not actually residential building work. In such cases (provided it is not specialist work), there is no need that the contractor/worker to have a licence or arrange contracts or insurance.

The main function of scaffolding is to provide an access platform to a building or structure. It can also be used to shore up a building or structure as a temporary measure against the risk of the building or structure becoming unstable.

Shoring work can be done with metal scaffolding components or timber or concrete, which may also be used to create temporary retaining walls after excavation work. The shoring usually does not become part of the structure or building or of its foundation and would not be residential building work.

Where the shoring work needs to be permanent and becomes the wall or foundation or any part of a structure or building which is a dwelling, or a retaining wall on property supporting a dwelling, that work would be residential building work and would no longer be called 'shoring'. Whether an emergency or not, that work is subject to the requirements mentioned above.

Licensing requirements

There are no exemptions from the licensing provisions in regard to emergency work. The person doing the work needs an appropriate licence even if they are not taking any money. However, a person doing work on their own home would not need a licence or an owner-builder permit for work valued at $10,000 or less, or that did not require development approval. Also, the homeowner must not do any specialist work unless they have a licence for that work.


Where a (licensed) contractor is engaged to undertake emergency building repairs costing over $5,000, the requirements for written contracts do not apply, only if:

  • there is likely to be a hazard to the health or safety of any person or to the public, or damage to the property, if work were not to be done promptly, and
  • the work had to be done immediately and the contractor did not have enough time to arrange and provide the necessary written contract.

Once the immediate emergency has passed and if the repair work, having a value of more than $5,000, is to continue, the contractor should arrange the necessary written contract. Go to the Fair Trading contracts page to view or download free home buildng contracts.


There is no automatic exemption from the insurance provisions under the Home Building Compensation Fund. If an emergency job increases into a larger job where the value of the contracted work is over $20,000, insurance must be arranged at the time the contract is varied and the cost becomes known.

Case study: faulty roof repair - read about Ray and how the house nearly fell down around him...

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