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Residential Construction Law (LAWS70329)

Graduate coursework level 7Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 7
Subject codeLAWS70329
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Every year, about half of the value of construction activity in Australia relates to the building, conversion and renovation of dwellings. The law relating to this activity is complex and multi-layered, involving difficult policy questions and significant statutory and regulatory intervention impacting on millions of people throughout the community. Despite this, residential construction law has, until recently, received relatively little attention from the majority of construction law practitioners, and not just in Australia. This innovative subject, taught by Matthew Bell and Suzanne Kirton, seeks to address this deficiency and introduce students to an evolving area of construction law in a comparative context, with material from Australasia (including Victoria) and from other members of the common law family of legal systems. Practitioners will make a significant contribution as guest lecturers.

Principal topics include:

  • Legislation specifically applicable to residential construction
  • Legal protection for ‘consumers’ in relation to residential construction
  • Legal obligations undertaken by the seller in relation to the quality of a new residential building
  • Means by which an off-plan buyer of a new residential house or unit may be protected against the financial failure of a project party
  • Remedies in relation to defects in the structure or common parts of multi-unit developments
  • Rights of successors in title to enjoy the remedies against the developer or any other project party responsible for defects
  • The impact of limitation periods upon remedies for different categories of defects
  • The role of insurance in protecting home-owners against the costs of repairs or defects claims
  • The impact of mandatory or voluntary registration or accreditation systems for residential developers and suppliers of construction services

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Understand in a comparative context the aims and methods of the law as it applies to the delivery of residential construction projects
  • Be familiar with the interaction between private and public law in regulating the process of construction in a residential context
  • Have a detailed understanding of the problems of bringing legal actions for defects in the context of multi-occupation residential developments
  • Appreciate the impact of special legal protection for parties treated by the law as weaker in bargaining terms
  • Understand the impact and usefulness of sectoral insurance and warranty schemes and their effect in ensuring quality of construction and in offering claims resolution systems
  • Be familiar with the procedural, funding and management issues which impact on litigation for housing defects
  • Be aware of legal and quasi-legal governmental interventions in relation to housing construction, repairs and improvements via registration and accreditation schemes
  • Be able to contribute meaningfully to ongoing debates about optimal ways of dealing with these matters at a policy level.

Eligibility and requirements


Melbourne Law Masters Students: None

JD Students: Successful completion of the below subject:

Code Name Teaching period Credit Points
LAWS50029 Contracts
Semester 2



Non-allowed subjects


Recommended background knowledge

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home


Additional details

  • Take-home examination (6,000 words) (100%) (13-16 December)
  • 10,000 word research paper (100%) (30 January 2020) on a topic approved by the subject coordinator

A minimum of 75% attendance is a hurdle requirement.

Quotas apply to this subject

Dates & times

  • November
    Principal coordinatorMatthew Bell
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours24-34 hours
    Total time commitment150 hours
    Pre teaching start date 9 October 2019
    Pre teaching requirementsThe pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.
    Teaching period 6 November 2019 to 12 November 2019
    Last self-enrol date14 October 2019
    Census date 6 November 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail13 December 2019
    Assessment period ends13 January 2020

    November contact information


    Matthew Bell, Coordinator
    Suzanne Kirton

    Email: law-masters@unimelb.edu.au
    Phone: +61 3 8344 6190
    Website: law.unimelb.edu.au

Additional delivery details

This subject has a quota of 30 students.

Enrolment is on a first come, first served basis. Waitlists are maintained for subjects that are fully subscribed.

Students should note priority of places in subjects will be given as follows:

  • To currently enrolled Graduate Diploma and Masters students with a satisfactory record in their degree
  • To other students enrolling on a single subject basis, eg Community Access Program (CAP) students, cross-institutional study and cross-faculty study.

Please refer to the Melbourne Law Masters website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    Specialist printed materials will be made available free of charge from the Melbourne Law School prior to the pre-teaching period.

  • Available through the Community Access Program

    About the Community Access Program (CAP)

    This subject is available through the Community Access Program (also called Single Subject Studies) which allows you to enrol in single subjects offered by the University of Melbourne, without the commitment required to complete a whole degree.

    Entry requirements including prerequisites may apply. Please refer to the CAP applications page for further information.

    Additional information for this subject

    If required, please contact law-admissions@unimelb.edu.au for subject coordinator approval.

  • Available to Study Abroad and/or Study Exchange Students

    This subject is available to students studying at the University from eligible overseas institutions on exchange and study abroad. Students are required to satisfy any listed requirements, such as pre- and co-requisites, for enrolment in the subject.

Last updated: 23 July 2019