Protect your client's poolscaping investment

Landscaping Victoria

By Megan Flower, General Manager, Landscaping Victoria
Friday, 08 April, 2016

Protect your client's poolscaping investment

Attention, pool builders: would you arrange for an unlicensed plumber or electrician to work on a job you have put your name to? No chance. So why should it be any different for trade work when it comes to poolscaping? There’s a wheelbarrow-load of reasons why you should be mindful about who you recommend to your client to carry out the landscaping work around your beautifully constructed pool, and that starts with using someone who is a registered building practitioner (RBP).1

It’s as simple as asking the question of your proposed landscape practitioner: are you registered? You can start by finding a list of registered landscapers, searchable via name, at Alternatively, you can check their registration status with the VBA at

In days gone by, it was all too easy for a self-professed green thumb to buy a ute and a shovel and call themselves a ‘landscaper’. A few years ago, the Victorian Government and Victorian Building Authority (VBA) instigated a major crackdown in removing these rogue elements. New laws now penalise operators who don’t hold the relevant registrations and insurances.

As the peak industry body in Victoria, Landscaping Victoria has taken a leading stance on this matter so that all existing members and new applicants who perform structural works and are entered into the membership category of ‘registered landscape builder’ must hold RBP registration in the category of DB-L Structural Landscaping as a minimum.

Registered landscape builders come armed with specific knowledge and insights that ensure quality, professionalism and law-abiding workmanship. It’s why checking that the person you’re hiring is a registered building practitioner is the first critical step you should take when considering landscaping around a pool.2

If the design of the area includes structural elements such as retaining walls, pergolas and gazebos, decking, screens and (some forms of) paving, the council jurisdiction in which the works are being undertaken may require a permit. If the job is valued at over $5000, only a registered building practitioner can obtain those permits and legally perform the work. They are also obligated to issue a formal written contract which meets the requirements of the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995.

If permits are required, detailed drawings of the proposed landscaping works must be provided by a draftsman, an architect experienced in landscaping or by the registered building practitioner who will be carrying out the works. The drawings must be particular to your site and include information on the proposed works to demonstrate compliance with building regulations, codes and standards. 

Further, under current law, jobs over $16,000 need to be covered by domestic building insurance, which only a practitioner with RBP can provide. Starting to see why registration is so important?

Jacqueline Early, a member of Landscaping Victoria and the co-director of Str8line Landscaping, shares a cautionary tale: “Too often we work with clients having to pull down retaining walls or remove paving due to errors made by inexperienced, untrained landscapers. It pays to be vigilant,” she says.

Often an unregistered landscaper will appear to be more cost-effective to the job, but ask yourself what the true price will be when something goes wrong and your client is faced with rectification works and/or possible legal costs, not to mention the emotional strain caused by these situations. 

For information regarding building registration requirements in states other than Victoria, please refer to your state landscaping body for further direction and information.

1It should be noted that if you elect to subcontract the poolscaping work and you do not hold the appropriate registration yourself (ie, DB-U Unlimited or DB-L in Structural Landscaping), then failing to comply with these legal requirements puts you at risk of delivering building outcomes that are not safe, fit for purpose or compliant with minimum building standards. As the named contract holder, it is you who will be fined or have your own RBP in Pool Building (DB-L S) revoked. For the purpose of this article, it is assumed that the landscaper will hold a contract directly with the client to complete the required poolscaping/landscaping works.

2Works that do not include structural elements can be carried out by qualified landscapers who do not hold RBP.

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