Emergency repairs

After a natural disaster, emergency repairs need to be carried out. During this time, affected consumers are highly vulnerable, and need to be wary of unlicensed tradespeople.

Emergency residential building repairs is work that:

  1. poses danger to the health and safety of people, or risk to property, in or near the dwelling, if not done as soon as possible
  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 home building compensation cover and give the homeowner a certificate of that cover 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 percent of the contract price.

Temporary scaffolding/shoring

In some emergency work, for example, 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.


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


There is no automatic exemption from home building compensation cover (formerly known as home warranty insurance) requirements. If an emergency job increases into a larger job where the value of the contracted work is over $20,000, cover 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 his house nearly fell down around him.

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