Plumbing legislation changes
The new laws
The Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018 was passed by the Queensland Parliament on 11 September 2018.
The Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2019 was approved by the Governor in Council on 4 April 2019.
The new laws commenced on 1 July 2019, along with a new Queensland Plumbing Wastewater Code (PDF, 1030.77 KB).
They form part of the Queensland Building Plan and deliver reforms to make our construction industry safer, fairer and more sustainable.
The new laws were developed in conjunction with industry representatives. They will make it easier for industry professionals to do business, understand their responsibilities and keep unlicensed workers out of the industry.
Queensland’s plumbers and drainers, builders, developers, local governments, water service providers and homeowners can expect some changes to managing their work.
- protect and enhance the health, safety and wellbeing of Queenslanders who need to use plumbing and drainage professionals
- ensure high-quality and cost-effective plumbing laws, regulations and codes
- provide an efficient, modern system for approving plumbing work
- save time and money through a faster permit process
- provide easier to understand laws
- provide a stronger penalty framework, particularly for unlicensed work.
- Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018 - replaced the repealed Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002
- Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2019 - replaced Standard Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2003 and Plumbing and Drainage Regulation 2003
- Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code (PDF, 1030.77 KB) - complements national plumbing standards
- New forms – now in effect
Stronger penalties for law breaches
There is a stronger penalty framework that increases penalties for those who breach the plumbing laws.
This includes prison terms for repeat offenders and sliding-scale penalties for people who perform, direct or supervise unlicensed work:
- first offence: 250 maximum penalty unit (MPU) ($33,362)
- second offence: 300 MPU ($40,035)
- repeat offenders: 350 MPU ($46,707) or 1 year’s imprisonment.
On-the-spot fines for performing, directing and supervising unlicensed work increased from $1,305.50 to $2,669.
Reduced permit application time frames
Permit applications are now divided into two streams: fast-track and standard. Work on new homes will be able to commence 18 days earlier (exclusions apply).
- Fast-track applications: From 20 to 2 business days
- Standard applications: From 20 to 10 business days
Amending or extending a permit
Licensees can apply to a local government to amend or extend an existing permit. They can then amend their existing permit rather than reapply for a new permit.
More flexibility for local governments
Local governments can opt out of the fast-track process or expand the scope of work that can be performed under that process. This allows them to choose a model that best meets their community’s needs.
New appeal rights
There are new appeal rights at each inspection stage, enabling licensees to appeal local government decisions when work is inspected rather than at the end of the job.
- Provisions have been simplified to improve readability and assist understanding.
- Terminology and timeframes are streamlined across work categories for consistency.
- Similar provisions have been grouped together to make the laws easier to find.
- Schedules in the new regulation have been amended to improve usability:
- Schedule 1: Notifiable work: Removal of emergency work and similar items have been combined.
- Schedule 6: Documents to accompany permit applications have been streamlined to provide a better explanation.
Revised Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code
The Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code (QPWC) (PDF, 1030.77 KB) has been amended to:
- remove all redundant requirements, e.g. where a requirement was also addressed in the Plumbing Code of Australia or a relevant Australian Standard
- include all plumbing and drainage standards for Queensland that are required to vary and complement national plumbing and drainage standards
- set out all Queensland-specific technical requirements in a single document in a familiar format to improve usability.
The structure now aligns with the National Construction Code, Volume Three, PCA 2019.
Welcome to this Webinar that will provide you with all of the information you need to know ahead of the new Plumbing and Drainage laws commencing on 1 July 2019.
In this presentation we will be covering the following overall topics:
Why did the laws change?
What has changed? and
What has stayed the same?
Let’s start with why.
When we first sat down to review the plumbing laws, we talked to stakeholders and received 3 clear directions:
We had a system with a lot of good points – permits, inspections and licensing requirements were all seen as positive aspects of the existing laws. The clear message we received was don’t fix anything that isn’t broken.
There was, however,
too much duplication and
requirements on how to actually do plumbing and drainage work were spread throughout the Act, the Regulation and the Code.
Finally, industry was concerned that the penalties for unlicensed plumbing work did not provide adequate deterrence.
The new laws establish a faster permit application process to save industry time and money.
We have also made the laws easier to understand. The laws have been restructured and streamlined to improve usability.
Under the new structure – if you want to know how to do work – go to the Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code.
If you want to know about process, for example when do you need to apply for a permit, and when you need a licence to do work - go to the regulation.
And if you want to know about the overall framework and how everything fits together – go to the Act.
Finally we have strengthened the penalty framework - particularly for unlicensed work.
Ok – so now we have worked through why we are changing the laws and looked at some of the benefits.
Now let’s have a look at what has changed.
As of 1 July 2019 a new suite of plumbing laws will commence.
These will replace all existing laws.
We will also be issuing guidelines that will assist plumbers, local governments and the Queensland Building and Construction Commission to interpret the new laws.
Finally we have prepared a brand new set of forms.
So there will be a fair bit for plumbers to get up to speed with before 1 July 2019.
To assist industry this presentation will go through all of the major changes.
Perhaps the most important change that industry will need to come to terms with is the creation of 2 streams to get a permit.
A number of local governments, including Brisbane, Gold Coast and Moreton Bay - already have a process in place that allows permits for standard, less complex jobs, to be issued faster.
We have built on that experience to come up with fast track and standard streams.
Fast track permits will be issued in 2 business days. Lodge your application on a Monday and the permit will be issued on Wednesday.
Standard permits will be issued in 10 business days.
Both timeframes represent a significant reduction down from the existing 20 business days.
Ok so what is fast track work?
This slide is taken directly from the new form 1 - Application for Permit work. The form will assist applicants to determine whether the application can be fast tracked or not.
If you answer yes to all questions in box A or box B in this section, the application may be fast tracked.
Box A reflects the fact that some work has been excluded from the fast track process as it is considered to pose a higher risk to public health, safety and the environment.
This work includes:
on-site sewerage treatments facilities
trade waste connections or
combined or sanitary drainage.
These types of applications require assessment of the relevant plans and accompanying documentation by local government before a permit may be issued.
As a result, these types of applications must be assessed under the standard application process.
Local governments have been provided with flexibility to choose the permit approval model that best suits their available resources.
They can do this by opting out of fast track entirely. Or they can expand the work that is covered by fast track.
For example, a local government could decide to include unit buildings under 5 stories in height into the fast track applications that can be assessed in their area.
Opting in or out is done by local government passing a resolution.
The local government must publish the resolution on their web page to let everyone in industry know about the changes.
Wherever possible, we tried not to change terminology. Unfortunately, this wasn’t always possible.
For example – we have done away with the phrase compliance assessment work and replaced it with permit work.
This was necessary because not all work will be assessed before a permit is issued.
We hope that the new term permit work will be quickly taken up by industry as it means exactly what is says. Permit work is work you need to obtain a permit for before commencing.
The term defect notice has changed to action notice. This is because notices may relate to a process issue, such as providing an as-constructed drawing of compliant work, as opposed to just dealing with defective work.
Plumbing compliance certificates have been replaced with inspection certificates and Chief Executive Approvals have been replaced with treatment plant approvals.
We will talk about both of these topics in more detail later in the presentation.
The new laws allow a permit to be amended. Previously, if there was a significant difference between what was applied for and the work that needed to be done - an application for a new permit had to be made.
Under the new rules - if substantial changes are to be made to the work covered by the original application, the applicant must apply to amend the existing permit approval. The application to amend must be approved, and a permit issued by local government before the additional work can commence.
If a local government inspector considers there is a substantial inconsistency between the work observed at an inspection and an approved plan for the work, the inspector may give the responsible person an action notice and require the responsible person to stop carrying out the work and apply for an amended permit.
Alternatively, the action notice may direct the responsible person to provide the local government with an as-constructed diagram that accurately represents the work.
The process for applying for an amendment to a permit is similar to the process for applying for a new permit. However, information provided with the original application need not be included if it has not significantly changed.
Similarly, the local government need not reconsider any information or documentation assessed as part of the original application unless changes have been made.
And while we are talking about changes, where a change is not significant, local government will also have the power to amend the plan to reflect any minor changes to the work authorised by the permit without having to have an application to amend the permit.
Under the new laws, permits will remain in force for a period of 2 years unless a longer period is stated in the permit. This is a change from the current rules where there is no end to the life of a permit.
The new laws also allow the term of the permit to be extended for a period of up to 2 years.
The laws do not limit the number of times that an eligible person may apply for an extension.
A permit takes effect from the day the permit is issued.
An application to extend the term of a permit must be made at least 10 business days before the end of the permit.
If the permit lapses and a new application has to be lodged, that application will need to comply with any changes to the rules that have come in.
This is a big change.
From the 1st of July 2019, it will be unlawful for a person to use plumbing and drainage work that is approved under a permit before a certificate is issued by local government stating that the work is operational and fit for use.
We are looking to provide maximum flexibility around how the new system will work.
This is why an inspection certificate can be issued at any point in the process, confirming that that particular stage of work is compliant, operational and fit for use.
Inspection certificates are used for any inspection prior to the final sign off of the work for a particular premises.
These forms are only used when work on a job is still outstanding.
An inspection certificate is an approved form used to record the inspection results of a stage of plumbing and drainage work as authorised by the permit.
The certificate states that the permit work is compliant with the code requirements.
Depending on the stage of work, the inspection certificate may also state that some or all of the work is operational and fit for use.
For example, a permit may authorise the building of a 4 bedroom house, and a shed that also includes a bathroom and kitchenette that will allow a family to live in while the main house is being built.
Under the new laws, as soon as the work for the shed is fully operational and fit for use, the local government can issue a certificate that will allow the family to commence using this plumbing work – before the work on the house has even commenced.
The legal requirement for a certificate to be issued will only arise if the responsible person makes a written request to the local government.
The certificate must be given within 2 business days after the work has been inspected or the local government has been given a covered work declaration.
We expect that many local governments will continue to provide a notice following an inspection advising that work is compliant. Usually this is via email. Local governments are encouraged to adopt the relevant form whenever advising that work inspected is compliant, as this will provide consistency across the state.
The final inspection certificate is an approved form used by local government to certify that all of the work under a permit, for one or more premises, is compliant, operational and fit for use.
The best way to explain this is by way of an example. You may have a plumbing permit that covers 10 townhouses.
A local government inspects the work and is satisfied that all of the work for the first 3 townhouses is compliant and operational. Nothing more needs to be done.
The inspector will issue a final certificate for the first 3 townhouses.
A month passes before the inspector is called back to inspect the remaining 7 townhouses.
In the meantime, the first 3 townhouses have all been occupied and are being fully lawfully used.
At the second inspection, the inspector confirms that the remaining 7 townhouses are compliant.
The inspector will issue a second final certificate for the remaining townhouses – all of which can then be occupied and the plumbing lawfully used.
A big change has been made in the area of penalties for unlicensed work.
During the review, we received significant feedback that the current penalties did not provide a big enough deterrent to people continuing to work without a licence.
To address this concern, the penalty framework was amended to increase the maximum penalties – and also to provide a potential 1 year jail term for repeated offenders.
Increased fines and the prospect of a jail term will provide a significant deterrent for unlicensed persons who are thinking about doing plumbing work.
Schedule 1 in the new regulation that deals with notifiable work has been amended to improve usability.
The item for emergency work has been deleted. This is because plumbers were lodging forms that only referred to emergency work. As a result, it wasn’t possible to determine what type of work was being performed.
It is expected that, regardless of whether work is done as part of an emergency call out, the work completed should be notified under the correct category of work that is applicable.
For example, replacing a defective hot water system will be recorded under Item 7.
In addition, existing items that dealt with the same types of work for backflow devices and installing fixtures have been consolidated into 2 items.
Please refer to fact sheet number 9 for a comparison between the old and new notifiable work schedules.
All of the documents that need to accompany an application for a plumbing permit are set out in schedule 6.
Different documents are required for different types of application. For example, if the application involves a wastewater treatment plant, the schedule points you to the documents that are needed in support of the application.
Most of schedule 6 has not changed significantly. It is simply set out in a more understandable way.
However, one substantial change has been included. All applications that involve sanitary drainage work will need to be accompanied by a soil classification report.
Where the report indicates that there are reactive soils, a design of the footings showing all of the articulation points for drainage must also be included.
Damage to buildings from soil heave is a big issue in Queensland, particularly in areas with highly reactive soils.
This new requirement addresses this by ensuring that applications involving drainage that is likely to be affected by reactive soils are accompanied by a design that takes this into account.
The requirement to get a soil classification report and footings design is not new.
The change to schedule 6 will mean that the plumbers and inspectors are fully aware that a site has reactive soil and will need to make sure that the work includes any articulation specified by the engineer.
One last change in terminology.
Chief Executive approvals are now called treatment plant approvals.
Changes to the national standard – Australian Standard 1546 – means that all treatment plants can now be assessed against the Australian Standard. Previously, this standard only dealt with aerated wastewater treatment plants.
As a result, the alternative approval pathway for systems provided under the current Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code is no longer required.
Transitional provisions have been put in place in the lead up to 1 January 2021 to deal with systems that have existing approvals.
All new systems will need to be tested under the new Australian Standard 1546.
During the review of the plumbing and drainage laws, we received feedback from industry around the state about inconsistent application of the plumbing and drainage laws.
To address this concern, we have included a new power to make binding guidelines to help with compliance.
Licensees, local government inspectors and Queensland Building and Construction Commission investigators are all bound by and must have regard to the new guidelines.
For example, if a licensee fails to comply with a guideline, this could result in disciplinary action being taken against them.
We are currently in the process of preparing guidelines on
- Tempering valve installations
- Supervision of trainees and apprentices, and
- Around enforcement action
We are in the process of consulting with key stakeholders on the final content of these guidelines and they will be available ahead of the 1 July commencement date.
Under the current laws, a licensee has to wait until the final inspection stage before an appeal can be lodged.
Feedback received during the review of the plumbing laws indicated that this delay made it impractical to appeal decisions.
This was due to the delays that would’ve been caused to the delivery of the building.
To address these concerns, appeal rights have been introduced at each stage of the permit and inspection process.
As a result, the number of decisions that can be appealed has been significantly increased and decisions can be appealed sooner.
From 1 July 2019, the Queensland Building and Construction Commission will have a web-based register that lists all persons who have an occupational license to do plumbing and drainage work.
This will make it easier for local government inspectors to determine whether a person doing plumbing work has a licence or not.
There are no other changes to the existing requirements for local government or the QBCC to establish and maintain registers.
That takes us to the end of all of the changes.
Let’s talk about what hasn’t changed.
There are no changes to the requirement to obtain a permit before you can commence plumbing work.
If you needed a permit before doing work under the old laws, you will still need a permit under the new laws.
There are no changes to the stages of inspection.
If work required an inspection before 1 July 2019, it will still require an inspection after 1 July.
There are no changes to the existing requirements around who can do plumbing and drainage work. If you needed a licence yesterday to do plumbing and drainage work, you will still need it after the first of July.
We have gone through a fair bit of material in this webinar and we wanted to give you the 3 most important things to remember from this session:
Top takeaway number 1 is the commencement date. The new laws take effect from 1 July 2019. Please make sure that you are ready.
Top takeaway number 2 is the permit application timeframes. Local governments will be issuing their permits much sooner than they have in the past.
Finally, top takeaway number 3 is that there is a lot to take in.
So we really encourage you to inform yourself by going online and looking at the fact sheets that provide you with in depth information on all the topics that have been covered in the webinar.
If you have any questions or comments as a result of this presentation, please go online and check out our factsheets or contact us through the email at the bottom of this screen.
This concludes our presentation. We thank you for your attention and hope that you are better prepared for the changes that will take effect from 1 July 2019.
Watch our webinar to understand the new plumbing and drainage laws.
- Last updated:
- 29 November 2019