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Practical completion is a term that is misunderstood by many home buyers. Generally it means the point where all building work is complete or all but completed, in accordance with the contract, and the house is reasonably fit for occupation.

A building contract usually defines practical completion being when all works are completed, except for any defects or omissions which do not prevent the home from being used for its intended purpose. In other words, if the unfinished items prevent the home from being “lived in” then practical completion could be deemed not to have occurred.

Usually there will be a practical completion inspection and the building supervisor and client will agree on a list of items that need to be attended to.

There is usually a short gap in time to the handover. I understand that this is commonly around 10-14 working days, although two weeks is the standard timeframe to key handover. This may be extended if there are a lot of practical completion items still to be addressed. Builders will not want to hand over a house that is not habitable.

Confusion over payments at this stage is common because it is at the point of practical completion that payment of the final progress claim is due. At Master Builders, we regularly receive calls from home buyers who state that some minor works have not been completed and that they wish to withhold some or all of the final payment until they have been completed. Such a practice is a contract breach because this is not what they have agreed to.

The builder has a contractual obligation to repair these minor defects, but this may not necessarily happen before handover, although most builders would attempt to do so. Many items are attended to in, or at the end of, the defects liability period (usually a period of four to six months after practical completion for many residential contracts, and sometimes called the maintenance period).

Practical completion is an important stage of the building process but buyers must understand that not every last detail will necessarily be completed at that time. In short, at practical completion, the builder is paid in full, there is a short gap of time, and the owner takes occupancy – then the defects liability period starts. The Building Commission or the courts will act if the builder does not meet the defects liability obligations.

13 responses to “Practical Completion”

  1. Tracey says:

    If a builder has taking 15 months to build, and the defects mean building works to take place after occupancy, how this this deemed fair!
    A single story, with no paint package, no main floor tile,s no carpet package ,
    A island bench to top that’s needs complete striping due to draws and cupboards not to plan, and various other defects, and no PCI date in place,
    Surely a occupier can say enough is enough?

  2. Rob Rumble says:

    Recently I had my PCI on site with the companies Construction Manager, Site Supervisor and my own Independent Inspector.
    During PCI we came across more than average defects for a single storey, 3 bedroom property, one such defect was my drain from my kitchen sinks was heavily blocked and no water could drain away at all.
    Would the blockage to my sinks be considered a failure to reach PCI requirements seeing as it would mean no use of a main service to the property?
    Also the building company has emailed me today saying they haven’t rectified all the defects from their list and the inspectors list, with handover due tomorrow they’ve taken it upon themselves to cancel our handover meeting and tell me that due to xmas break we will have to reschedule handover early in the new year because they finish up at the end of the day on the 22nd of Dec and don’t return until Jan 11th in 2016.
    Surely they can’t just do that without sufficient notice, I didn’t even get 24hrs.

  3. Jo says:

    Are Downpies to be completed prior to handover?
    Should down pipes align with the drains prior to handover?

  4. amanda says:

    Are the homeowners entitled to daily compensation if the builder does not have PCI items completed within 10 business days? in my case 9 months?

  5. Janette says:

    Our builders have gone past the Practical Completion Date as determined by our Contract and have not made any requests to Extensions of Time. We are now approaching 11 months total build time, though we were initially told (and subsequently multiple times) they would complete it within PCD. We have since asked them for a (new) PCD and schedule of works that are yet to be completed, but have so far not been given anything. Would like to know what advice you can give us to try and get this information?

  6. Dhana Thangarajah says:

    The builder takes over time to rectify the defects after practical certificate. It cause financial burden to owner pay the mortgage. Our practical certificate completed on 6/4/16, prior to practical completion and after practical completion we have provided list of the defects. The builder carried out 90 days maintenance period.

    We dispute that 90 days maintenance period applies after occupancy certificate.
    Therefore builder is liable to owner for the loss, taking over time to rectify the defects.

    As per the contract, the practical completion should have been reached within 35 weeks of the commencement of work.

    The time taking to complete the building work is well above 35 weeks even after allowing for reasonable number of additional days as per HIA clause 22 of the contract.

    Could you please verify, can builder take more than six weeks still he has not been completed the defects after practical certificate.



  7. joe says:

    Builder painted internal of house when walls were still to wet and now paint has issues with not adhering properly and is unstable with regular pieces falling off.
    Would this be considered as ready for occupancy ?