Insurance giant QBE has left itself open to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines by failing to lodge annual statements with the ACT government about its treatment of home warranty insurance claims.
The statements are mandatory under the terms of the ACT Building Act .
The act states a failure to file is punishable by a fine of up to 100 penalty units [$70,000].
QBE, which has been selling home warranty insurance policies to ACT builders since before 2009, has never filed a statement with the construction occupations registrar, a spokesman for Planning and Land Management Minister, Mick Gentleman, said.
The minister has yet to say if the ACT government would be seeking to impose the fines specified under the act.
"Access Canberra are still investigating the reasons behind the oversight," a spokesman for the minister told Fairfax. "QBE have [now] provided the reports and [they] are being reviewed.
There are question marks over whether or not it would be possible for Access Canberra to make QBE pay up if fines were imposed.
"There is no infringement notice [for the penalty] prescribed under this provision of the Building Act," the spokesman said.
QBE confirmed it was working with the ACT government on the provision of the annual statements.
Neither the company or the minister's office would comment on why they weren't filed at the proper times or why the registrar had never followed the issue up.
Fairfax has previously reported that the ACT government bungled the provision of home warranty insurance by setting the minimum term for policies at five years, one year less than the statutory six year warranties they were underwriting.
While the ACT Master Builders Association policy mirrors the six year warranty entitlement, the QBE policy is set at the legislated minimum.
Home warranty insurance protects homeowners if their builder dies, goes broke or disappears before the expiry of the warranty period.
Forde homeowners, John and Maria Ireland, have been left $20,000 out of pocket by the difference between the warranty term and the insurance policy term.
They are incensed that while QBE insisted on following the letter of the law in their case, it had failed to comply with the Building Act for years by not telling the government how many claims it received, how many it paid, how many it rejected and why.
Mr Ireland said the ACT government should impose the fines, which could total more than $500,000, immediately.
"If I chose not to register my [work] van the government would be down on me like a ton of bricks," he said.
"Why isn't Access Canberra enforcing this? Our rates go up 10 per cent a year and they let something like this happen. It is one rule for the big corporations and another one entirely for the little guy."
Tanya Nguyen, a victim of the Sublime building company collapse who fought for more than a year to get QBE to settle her claim, agreed.
"I'm not surprised the ACT government has let this happen," she said. "If they had been doing their job in the first place then dodgy builders [like Sublime] would not be allowed to trade."
She said that by failing to follow up on the reports, the construction occupations registrar had ignored a valuable analytical tool which would help track patterns of non compliance and insolvency within the ACT building industry.
"The reports would also indicate if QBE was treating its customers and homeowners fairly."
Corporation penalty units were increased from $550 to $700 in 2013 at the same time as individual penalty units were increased from $110 to $140. Penalty unit values are due to be reassessed in 2017.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.