Working with your building client - checklist

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  • Provide your client with copies of all documents
  • Use a Variation Notice to change a contract
  • Notify your client of the cost of any delays the variation may cause

Your client has legal rights to visit the site during construction.

Your client should not have to pay when variations are ordered to deal with issues that you should have identified before starting work.

You must give your client a copy of the Domestic Building Consumer Guide before they sign a major domestic building contract. View our Domestic Building Consumer Guide page.

Client access to the building site

By law, you must allow the homeowner and their agent ‘reasonable access’ to the site during construction. They have this right even if they sign a contract that states otherwise (for example, a contract that limits visits to business hours only).

The owner should always consult with you about occupational health and safety issues before they enter the site.

If your client or their agent interferes with the carrying out of building works on the site, they will be responsible for any costs or delays resulting from their actions. However, you must notify your client within five business days, in writing, of the cost or delay caused by their actions.


Variations are changes to the contract that:

  • you and your client agree to make
  • the building surveyor orders after the contract has been signed and building work has started.

Your client should not have to pay when variations are ordered to deal with issues that you should have identified before starting work – for example, extra costs to deal with excavation, when you could have predicted the problem by reviewing the foundation data.

By law, you and your client must agree in writing to the changes and add the details, including the new price and completion date, to the contract before the work is carried out.

You are legally required to use a Variation Notice to change the contract, except when you reasonably believe the changes will not:

  • require a change to any permits for the project
  • cause delay
  • add more than two per cent to the original contract price.

However, we recommend that a Variation Notice is used for all changes to minimise disputes.

For a copy of this notice, see Part D: Forms in the Building contract for new homes (Word, 1.2MB).

When a variation is ordered

When an ‘authorised person’ (an architect or building surveyor, building inspector or engineer) orders variations, you must give your client a copy of the order to make the changes and the Variation Notice.

If your client does not agree with the changes ordered, they must advise you in writing within five business days of receiving the notice.

Prime cost and provisional sum items

Prime cost and provisional sum items can lead to disputes with your client.
To avoid this, it is better to have specified everything in the contract. This means you can give your client a fixed price for the work.

Prime cost items are your client’s selections of fixtures and fittings (for example: ovens, taps and tiles) that are listed items in the contract but which are not specifically identified and costed. This is because you or your client could not determine or agree the make, model or exact price of the item at the time you signed the contract – you could only estimate the price.

Give your client a copy of any invoice, receipt or other document that shows the cost of any prime cost item.

Provisional sum items are items listed in the contract for possible additional work, such as excavation, where you cannot give you an exact price of the work at the time you sign the contract – you can only make a reasonable estimate of the cost.

Your client has a legal right to a ‘reasonable estimate’, regardless of the contract they sign.

By law, you must make a ‘reasonable allowance’ for the nature and location of the building site when estimating supply and delivery in the contract price. For example, if you are building on a rural property or a steeply sloping site, you must allow for transport and access costs.

Home building completion

Home building works are only complete when the:

  • work meets the contract plans and specifications
  • building surveyor has issued the Certificate of Final Inspection (for extensions and renovations) or Occupancy Permit (for new homes).

If your client wishes to have an independent building consultant advise them during the contract period, you must allow the consultant reasonable access to the building site.

If you are in dispute about areas of work, contact our Building Information Line on 1300 55 75 59 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays). Calling us costs the same as a local call. Additional charges may apply if you are calling from overseas, on a mobile, or payphone.

Provide your client with all documents

By law, your client has a right to copies of any report, notice, order or other document related to their building project that you receive from:

  • any public statutory authority
  • utilities such as gas, electricity, telephone, water and sewerage
  • the relevant building surveyor appointed to issue the permit, or the council municipal building surveyor.