Canberra builders' lack of experience in building apartments has contributed to 15 years of defects plaguing some multi units in the ACT, an ACT Legislative Inquiry has heard.
The first public hearing of the inquiry into building quality in the ACT was held on Wednesday, laying bare the personal effects of shoddy building and contract disputes.
The hearing came more than a year after the probe was announced after longstanding concerns from individuals and industry groups about the high rate of defects in new developments across the city.
Individuals told the inquiry they felt there was no consumer protection and it was difficult to ascertain who the bad builders were.
Former ACT building inspector and executive director of ACT Master Builders Jerry Howard told the inquiry the ACT did not need more regulation but better enforcement.
He said the past 15 years had seen many examples of very poor building.
While in the past most buildings in Canberra were houses, two thirds are now multi units which require different skills to build.
"To move from one building system to another building system really requires a real training and education program of those builders," Mr Howard said.
"Repeat offenders should bot be allowed to operate in the industry."
Consumer Peter Hopner told the inquiry his apartment - bought off the plan from a major developer at a complex in Gungahlin - was built with problems including dangerous gaps on the balcony.
"Personally, I think the builder's a learner," he said.
Mr Hopner said many owners in the complex were concerned about the safety of the balconies, especially for small children and animals.
"If you've taken a blase approach to this, what else are you taking a blase approach to?" Mr Hopner said.
He said his immediate reaction after a preliminary inspection of the unit was: "what have we done".
The hearing heard about the practice of phoenixing - when a new company is created to continue the business of a company that has been deliberately liquidated.
Natalie Bice and Brendan Pratt said their builder went into liquidation shortly after they moved into their property, leaving them to fix 60 defects.
Ms Bice told the hearing they trusted the builder and used a certifier recommended by him.
Stephen Peek, who used the same builder, told the inquiry consumers had little power when faced with contractual problems.
Mr Peek said when they picked up the keys they were hit with about $80,000 in unapproved variations they did not know were coming.
"I think industry bodies need to stand up and take account for their members," he said.
He said the builder remains a member of the Master Builders Association.
The inquiry - which has received 100 submissions - will hold more hearings next month.