What Is An Unsatisfactory Building Inspection?

Building inspector investigating defects

Purchasing a property is one of the most significant financial decisions most people will make in their lifetime. To ensure the investment is sound, potential buyers often rely on building inspections to uncover any hidden issues with the property. However, not all inspections come back clean. When an inspection report is flagged as unsatisfactory, it can send waves of concern through the transaction process. But what exactly constitutes an unsatisfactory building inspection, and what steps can you take if you find yourself facing one in Australia? This article delves into these questions, providing clarity and guidance.

Understanding Building Inspections

Building inspections are thorough assessments conducted by qualified professionals to evaluate the condition of a property. Inspectors examine various aspects, including structural integrity, safety, and compliance with the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and relevant Australian Standards. These inspections are critical for identifying defects or issues that may not be visible to the untrained eye.

What It Means

An unsatisfactory building inspection occurs when the inspector identifies one or more significant issues within the property. These concerns can range widely, from structural defects to safety hazards or even non-compliance with current building codes. The report generated from such an inspection details the identified problems, often classifying them based on their severity and the recommended actions to address them.

Common Issues Identified

Building inspector investigating defects

Structural Defects

Issues affecting the building’s foundation, walls, roofs, or floors that compromise its structural integrity are some of the most serious problems that can be uncovered in an unsatisfactory building inspection. Homeowners rely on the structural integrity of their homes to keep them safe and secure, so any major structural defects pose risks to safety and long-term durability. Common structural defects include:

  • Cracking or movement in concrete slabs, footings or foundations
  • Bowing, leaning or sagging walls
  • Damaged or missing load-bearing beams or columns
  • Roof or floor framing issues
  • Defective or deteriorating brickwork

If structural defects are identified, the inspector’s report will likely recommend further investigation and testing by an engineer or other specialist. In severe cases, the inspector may advise against purchasing the property until the structural issues have been properly repaired. Left unaddressed, structural problems can worsen over time and potentially lead to costly repairs, safety hazards or a reduced resale value for the property.

Safety Hazards

Risks like faulty electrical wiring, unstable structures, and fire safety non-compliance.

Safety hazards identified in an unsatisfactory building inspection can pose serious risks to occupants if not properly addressed. Common safety hazards involve:

  • Faulty or exposed electrical wiring that may cause fires, electric shocks or electrocution. Inspectors will check all light fixtures, outlets, switches and circuitry for signs of damage, exposed wires, overloading and grounding issues.
  • Unsafe structural elements like inadequate load-bearing beams, weakened floor joists, unstable stairs and handrails, and deteriorating foundations that threaten to collapse. Inspectors will evaluate the integrity and stability of all load-bearing members and structural connections.
  • Non-compliant or missing smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment. Inspectors check that a sufficient number of smoke alarms are installed, that they are functional, and that any fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems comply with current codes.
  • Unsafe heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems that release carbon monoxide or other combustion gases into living spaces. Inspectors will check that HVAC systems are properly ventilated, maintained and in safe working condition.

All major safety hazards identified in an unsatisfactory inspection should be urgently addressed to ensure the health and well-being of occupants. Necessary repairs or upgrades should be performed as soon as possible to bring the property into compliance with safety standards and codes.

Non-compliance with Building Codes

Any part of the building not meeting the standards set by the BCA, including inadequate plumbing, electrical systems, and construction methods.

Non-compliance with building codes can be a serious issue, as it means that parts of the building were not constructed properly or did not meet minimum safety standards. This non-compliance may be evident in:

  • Plumbing systems that lack proper drainage, ventilation, or water flow due to incorrect installation of pipes, vents, and fixtures.
  • Electrical wiring that does not conform to current code requirements for circuitry, grounding, and load capacity. Improper wiring can lead to fire hazards and shock risks.
  • Structural elements like foundations, walls, and roofs that do not meet code specifications for material thickness, reinforcement, and load-bearing capacity.
  • Inadequate fire separation between units in multi-family buildings. Fire-rated walls, floors, and doors are required to slow the spread of fire.
  • Missing or non-functional safety equipment like handrails, guardrails, smoke alarms, and emergency exits.

Building code violations identified in an unsatisfactory inspection should be remedied as soon as possible to bring the property up to the minimum safety standards set for durability, safety and habitability. Necessary upgrades and retrofits should be performed to correct all code non-compliance issues before ownership is transferred.

Pest Infestation

The presence of pests, especially termites, can cause significant structural damage.

Pest infestations are a common issue found in unsatisfactory building inspections, and termites pose one of the biggest threats. Not only do termites feed on wood structures, but they can also damage insulation, wiring and plumbing components. Left untreated, termite infestations can cause:

  • Structural damage that compromises the integrity of load-bearing walls, floors and framing members.
  • Damage to wood floors, trim, cabinets and other wood components throughout the building.
  • Moisture issues as termites consume wood that blocks the flow of water vapour, trapping moisture inside walls and floors. This can lead to mould growth.

If termites are found during an inspection, it is critical to have the infestation evaluated by a pest control professional as soon as possible. A treatment plan will likely be recommended, involving the application of pesticides and other measures to eliminate the termites and prevent future infestations. Any wood components that are extensively damaged may need to be repaired or replaced.

Overall, pest infestations identified in a building inspection should be addressed promptly to prevent further damage. Professional pest control and necessary repairs or replacements can help ensure the structural integrity of the property and create a healthy living environment for future occupants.

Poor Workmanship

Evidence of substandard construction practices or repairs.

Poor workmanship during original construction or subsequent repairs and renovations can be a sign of an unsatisfactory building inspection. Substandard practices that violate building codes and construction standards leave property owners at risk of several issues:

  • Premature failure of components like windows, siding, roofing and plumbing fixtures. Shoddy installation can cause these items to degrade more quickly and require replacement sooner than expected.
  • Structural instability and safety hazards when foundations, load-bearing walls or other critical elements are not built properly. Improper framing techniques, inadequate bracing and unlevel foundations threaten the integrity of the entire building.
  • Water damage and mould growth due to poor sealing of windows, doors, siding and other elements that are meant to keep water out. Unchecked moisture penetration can lead to costly repairs and health issues.
  • Code violations that make the property difficult or impossible to insure. Lenders and insurers often require buildings to meet minimum construction standards.

When inspecting a property, pay close attention to details like uneven surfaces, crooked walls and doors/windows that do not operate smoothly. These could indicate poor workmanship during original construction or repairs. If you notice issues like misaligned framing, inadequate fastening of structural elements, or shoddy finish work, consult with an expert contractor to determine the severity of the poor workmanship and how best to remedy any defects or deficiencies. In extreme cases, substantial reconstruction may be needed to bring the property up to an acceptable standard.

Water Damage

Signs of leaks, dampness, or other water-related issues that could lead to mould growth or structural deterioration.

Water damage from issues like roof leaks, plumbing leaks and flooding is a common cause of unsatisfactory building inspections. Homeowners should look out for signs of:

  • Stains or discolouration on ceilings and walls, especially in corners
  • Buckling, bubbling or loose areas on drywall or flooring
  • Musty or mouldy odours
  • Peeling or flaking paint
  • Wood rot around windows, on trim or in floors and wall framing

If any water damage is discovered, it is important to act quickly to:

  1. Identify and fix the source of the leak or moisture. This may require repairing or replacing damaged roofing, gutters, pipes or other components.
  2. Remove wet or damaged materials. This includes pulling up wet carpets and padding, removing soaked drywall and trim, and replacing ruined flooring.
  3. Dry affected areas thoroughly. Use dehumidifiers, fans and heaters to remove excess moisture from walls, floors and other porous surfaces.
  4. Hire a professional to assess the full extent of damage and recommend repairs. Extensive water damage may require specialized tools, equipment and expertise to remedy properly.

By addressing water damage issues promptly and comprehensively, homeowners can mitigate the long-term impacts on the structural integrity and safety of their property. Thorough drying, repairs to the source of the leak, and replacement of damaged materials are essential steps to restoring a building to a satisfactory condition.

Implications of an Unsatisfactory Report

Building inspector investigating defects

Receiving an unsatisfactory building inspection report can significantly impact the property transaction. Potential buyers might use the report to:

  • Negotiate a Lower Purchase Price: Armed with detailed information about the property’s faults, a buyer may negotiate a reduction in the sale price.
  • Request Repairs: Buyers might stipulate that the seller must address certain issues before the sale can proceed.
  • Withdraw from the Purchase: In cases where the identified problems are too significant or expensive to rectify, a buyer may decide to pull out of the deal altogether.

Facing an unsatisfactory building inspection doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your property dreams. Here are steps you can take to navigate this challenging situation:

  1. Understand the Report: Carefully review the inspection report to understand the nature and extent of the issues identified.
  2. Seek Expert Opinions: For major concerns, consider consulting with specialists, such as structural engineers or electricians, for a more detailed analysis.
  3. Consider Your Options: Based on the report and further evaluations, consider whether you’re willing to undertake repairs, renegotiate the sale price, or if it’s best to walk away.
  4. Negotiate Remediation: If you decide to proceed with the purchase, negotiate with the seller on addressing the identified issues, whether through repairs or price adjustments.


An unsatisfactory building inspection can initially seem like a significant hurdle in the property-buying process. However, with the right approach and thorough due diligence, it can provide a valuable opportunity to negotiate better terms or avoid a potentially poor investment. Understanding the implications of such a report and knowing how to proceed can empower buyers to make informed decisions, ensuring their property purchase is sound and secure.



One response to “What Is An Unsatisfactory Building Inspection?”

  1. […] An unsatisfactory building inspection refers to a report that uncovers significant issues with the property, such as major structural defects, extensive pest infestations, or safety hazards. Such findings can affect the property’s value, safety, and insurability, prompting a buyer to renegotiate the sale terms or reconsider the purchase. Read the full article here → […]

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