Smoke and mirrors – BWOF process causes headaches for building owners

As New Zealand emerges from the dark post-COVID-19, many companies will be attempting to resuscitate their businesses back to life and building owners in particular, should be aware of some of the underhand practices used in the Building Warrant Of Fitness (BWOF) industry if they want to avoid further stress and costs.

Stress and uncertainty in the BWOF process

Managing Director of building compliance company Ruption, Charles Kelly, says that off the back of the nationwide lockdown, many building owners will be fronting a variety of issues only made worse by behaviours within the BWOF industry.

“We believe there will be a lot of building owners out there who will be under a significant amount of stress and uncertainty, and they’re possibly facing a lot of additional costs right now as well.

“The BWOF process isn’t rocket science. However, many in the industry have created a dark art using smoke and mirrors to generate revenue from building owners. From having more than 25 years of industry experience, we are very much aware of some of the conduct that goes down and unfortunately, building owners become collateral damage.”

Blurring lines

Different factors that result in the unreliable practices include BWOF providers purely ticking boxes, workers having an agency, service or maintenance arm, the ‘Houston Effect’, and the blurring of lines around the Building Act, says Kelly.

“The majority of companies in the industry are just BWOF administrators, so they just tick the boxes. If there’s any challenges or trouble with IQP’s or service providers, they then flip that over to the building owner to resolve rather than sorting the issue out for their client.

“They can also have an agency and a service and maintenance arm. This usually means that their inspectors and technicians are incentivised to achieve revenue budgets.

There’s also what we call the ‘Houston Effect’. “Houston we have a problem”, means that anywhere from either four to eight weeks out from a BWOF being due, the building owner will be presented with a list of maintenance work that needs to be done before a 12A can be issued.

“They can often blur the lines between work that is required and work that is actually just recommended. From here, the building owner who simply wants their building warrant of fitness ends up having to sign off on unbudgeted maintenance work every year.”

Building owners feel the pain

Kelly says that most building owners end up putting up with poor practices, surprise costs and unease because they simply don’t know where else to go.

“As a team, we’ve conducted over 5,000 building audits over the last two years and have spoken to many building owners in the process. The common theme among the majority of them was not knowing where to go to find someone who is ethical and transparent.

“At the end of the day, it’s not a particularly complicated business – the industry makes it complicated.

“We understand the pain points that owners are dealing with. It’s about wanting someone who is independent, experienced, and can be trusted to manage their building for them on their behalf so that they can focus on their core business.”

BWOF process causes headaches for building owners

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